Disclaimer: Don't own it. J.K. Rowling owns it. I own the plot.
A/N: Thank you for the 34 reviews/death threats! KAOS, aliveforever83, Ms.Lynn, Krista, Rebecca, StarJade, Susan, C, DessieDevin, dracoNmione, ce, Snow-Queen, hyper-shark, KirbyKirst, Purple People Eater, MysticalStormz, Katrina, CrimsonFirebolt, Akira Gown, JAMTillDawn, Siobhan (Madiszon), mutsumi, dragon eyes, starlight, saj aneri, superdork, Katrina, Amo il ragazzo, angkat14, hb heavengurl899, Green Tea, Draco Lover!
To answer questions: I have seen the new film! It was really good, and I agree Lucius was great, except I somehow can't picture him with long hair… I'm in England, the land of freezing winters…I actually have to take breaks from writing to thaw my fingers out! I tried to have Draco change slowly – was that not slow enough? Most people complained that I was taking forever… Remember that in this one he's had months, in which he has changed, so don't tell me he's totally out of character just yet…
You know I said there would be flashbacks? There's one here. You should be able to tell when it starts, but just in case I put ~*~*~*~ to mark the divide. Fluffier flashbacks will occur later – this one's trying to instil some plot as well. Enjoy!
Half an hour later, Draco lay on a rock-hard bed in the tiny dungeon. There were two beds in the one cell now – obviously Lucius thought it would be more 'fun' to put them in a cell together.
He chanced a glance over to Hermione's bed, pushed against the opposite wall. She still hadn't woken up, which was a mixed blessing. Obviously he wanted to see if she was alright, but… how much had she forgotten? Did she remember some things? Translating the Laekalia? Talking to him? Maybe she'd forgotten him completely. Memory Charms were a tricky art, especially when making someone forget such a large thing. Trying to guess exactly what she had forgotten was impossible.
Just a day before, it had seemed like everything was perfect. They had loved each other, talked and joked and had no greater worry than the length of their Potions essay. Lucius had been forgotten, ignored, a distant memory from months ago. That had been yesterday…
Draco sat at what had become his customary table in the library. One of the main problems he and Hermione had found had been the simple mater of where to meet. Obviously, they couldn't continually visit each other's common rooms, as they had done the night of what was now referred to as the 'Attack'. A few after-dark visits had taken place, however, with the help of Harry's Invisibility Cloak.
The most obvious place to meet was the secluded table, tucked away in a corner of the library, where Hermione and Draco had worked on their translation. Over time, Harry and Ron – Hermione had insisted that they all call each other by first names – had come to think of it as their table also. Draco still didn't get on well with Harry and Ron, but they suffered each other for Hermione's sake.
Draco ran a hand through his hair irritably, and flipped to the index of one of the myriad Potions books scattered around the table. He had an important essay to finish on Muggle plants and their uses in potions, a subject which seemed to have been overlooked by the authors of all the books he could find.
A few unsuccessful minutes later, he was startled out of his mind-numbing search by the thud of a book on the table next to him. He glanced up to see Hermione surveying the table in front of him. She frowned.
'That essay's supposed to be in this afternoon!'
Draco gave a passing imitation of an overdramatic groan, and held a hand to his eyes in mock despair.
Hermione took a seat. 'Don't be silly. You've you at least another seven inches to write, if not more.'
'I can't find any mention of Muggle plants.' he admitted almost grudgingly. 'I've looked and looked, but… nothing.'
Hermione picked up one of the books on the desk. 'You haven't any decent books here whatsoever.' she remarked.
'Of course I do.' Draco said indignantly. 'Humphrey's A Study Of Botany is widely regarded as having the most detailed descriptions of Woeful Weeds in the country. And Wilson's Plants of Great Britain is…'
'Yes, but they're all written by traditionalist old wizards who think that if a plant doesn't try to bite you it's useless.' She broke in, a subtle smile on her lips. Draco frowned grumpily. 'I'll find you some better books.' she added, and practically skipped towards the potions section.
Draco shook his head, glancing down at his parchment to hide an amused smile. Hermione loved to help, especially where knowledge was concerned. Sometimes he thought she would fight Voldemort with a rubber chicken if she thought it would help him learn something.
She returned within a minute, arms laden with about six books. 'Here.' she said, dumping the load on the table. 'Try these, they're more modern.'
He thanked her with a nod, and flicked to the index of the topmost book. Sure enough, the section on 'Muggle Plants' covered pages 31 to 35, 67, 69 and 128.
'What would I do without you?' he asked jokingly.
'Fail Potions, obviously.' Hermione leant down to look directly at him. 'I'm going outside to watch Harry and Ron play Quidditch. I would have invited you to play, but obviously…' She waved a hand at the Potions essay.
'Have fun freezing in the stadium then.' he replied. She shook her head in amusement, and planted a small kiss on one cheek before grabbing her bag and running out.
Draco watched her leave, a lingering smile on his face, before continuing his essay. Ten minutes and four inches later, his homework was interrupted again, but this time by a far more ominous occurrence.
It was a calm, persistent tap on the nearest window that caught his attention. He glanced up to see an intelligent-looking owl sitting on the window ledge, a letter tied to its leg. It was something in the owl's manner that first made him uneasy – a kind of superior air in the way it held itself.
The windows were divided into two parts – one large upper window which stayed firmly in place, and a smaller one at the bottom, which was designed to slide upwards. Draco opened the lower window, and the owl hopped elegantly in, holding out one leg at a perfect right angle for him to take the letter. It did not seem to behave quite naturally – it had been moulded to fit a preconceived ideal.
With a feeling of foreboding, Draco took the letter and rolled it open. He didn't need to see the signature at the bottom to know who had written it. He could recognise his father's handwriting. It was written in his father's usual style, formal and semi cryptic, full of hints and meanings.
I grow tired of your whimsical infatuation with your Mudblood friend. I wonder continually what could make you refuse the power that would have been yours? I need not repeat the plans and glorious achievements of the Dark Lord, although a review of the punishments and tortures may be appropriate. The Dark Lord has no mercy: he will not hesitate to take any course of action if he sees fit.
The simplest plans are the best, and he has decided to murder the Mudblood and thus remove the problem if you do not turn back and rejoin our noble cause. The Dark Lord has followers everywhere, even inside Hogwarts – murdering one girl would be no difficulty. Do you wish her to die, Draco?
The Dark Lord will be forgiving to the son of his most favoured supporter – many men have been swayed by a pretty face, but have returned and claimed their share of glory, power and wealth. I have charmed this letter to act as a Portkey, which will be activated the moment you step outside the new wards. I request your presence by no later than eleven tonight – if you do not come, I shall assume you have chosen foolishly, and proceed with the murder as soon as possible.
Draco's fears increased sickeningly as he read the letter. He didn't doubt his father's word for an instant – he knew that their murder plan was very probable, and Voldemort certainly had enough followers among the Slytherins alone who would jump at the chance to gain their Lord's favour.
The question was not the truth of the letter, but how he should act upon it. Turning back to Voldemort's side was out of the question. How could he go back to mindless killing of Muggle-borns and Muggles? Hermione was Muggle-born. Muggles may not have magical powers, but Draco at least had to admit they were human, not some dumb animal to be slaughtered.
But he couldn't put Hermione in danger. No, he must protect her at all costs. Could he guard against the attacker from inside the school? But how, when he didn't know where or how the unknown attacker would strike?
He would have to go and meet his father. A few lies? Maybe pretend to be undecided, unsure whether to turn back to Voldemort or stay with his love. They wouldn't kill her then, for fear he would turn against them completely when they had had him so nearly there.
Yes. He wouldn't tell anyone about the letter yet – Hermione would without a doubt try to follow him, and that could prove dangerous for them both.
The bell rang, and Draco cursed. His Potions essay was still three inches too short. Snape still favoured him – maybe he'd overlook it? He hastily folded the letter and the homework together, threw his things into his bag, and made for Potions.
But that had been yesterday. Here and now, in the cold stone dungeon, Draco could do nothing more than wait helplessly. How much did Hermione remember? A phrase of some Muggle song Hermione had listened to floated through his mind. 'The gods may throw a dice, their minds as cold as ice…'
He had never believed in a god. Now he almost wished he did, just so he could believe somehow things would turn out alright. But no one was watching over him. No, just fickle Fate and cruel chance, rolling their dice to determine what Hermione forgot. Six and she loves you, one and she hates you. Two she's forgotten you completely, five she's just lost a few patches. Three and four? Who knows?
It was strange, he thought, that all he could do now was wait. He was used to planning. The complexities of probable outcomes would arrange themselves neatly in his mind with a minimum of effort. But how could he tell how the dice would roll? How could he tell what Hermione remembered? He could only wait and hope.
He did not have to wait long. After a few minutes, his attention was drawn by a low murmur from Hermione's bed. He watched as she turned over, awaking fully to find the welcoming haven of Hogwarts gone, replaced with a hard bed in a freezing dungeon. Draco felt a surge of fearful anticipation
'What?' Hermione asked, sitting up in the bed and putting a hand to her forehead. Honouring the ancient cliché, she added 'Where am I?'
She looked around, and immediately saw Draco, sitting in his bed and watching her with a guarded yet nervous expression.
Draco saw her frown, recognising him, and then her frown turned angrier and his hopes sank. 'What have you done, Malfoy? Where have you taken me?' She was trying to hide what she felt; she had forced her voice to remain steady and unshaking, but it betrayed an undercurrent of fear and terror. And somewhere deep down – hate.
He closed his pale eyes in an attempt to hide his own feelings, which whirled sickeningly. Screaming at the front of his mind was the terrible, hopeless knowledge that she had forgotten. Forgotten everything that mattered. She didn't love him.
When he opened his eyes, it was to see Hermione still watching him warily. There was a bruise on her forehead where she'd fallen, and adept at reading her expressions, he knew she was terrified. Some un-Malfoy itch wanted to comfort her. But he couldn't, of course. Would he ever be able to again?
He closed his eyes again. Looking at her was too painful. 'I haven't done anything.' he said, and it was a tribute to his control over himself that his voice came out smooth and level.
Hermione's back was pressed against the wall, like a hunted animal. Draco realised she was afraid of him. Had she feared him in those years before he knew her? He couldn't imagine why. She and Harry and Ron had always seemed so confident, almost to the point of arrogance. They had always come off best.
She stared at him, a single ray of dim light catching her eye and making it glisten. The undercurrent of hate he had seen before now came to the forefront.
'I know you've done something.' she said, her words spat out with utter distaste, the terror of the moment spurring her to attack him in the worst way possible -with words. 'I'm not stupid. You're the most heartless, uncaring, prejudiced Slytherin to come to Hogwarts since Tom Riddle himself. You're always planning something horrible.' Her eyes flashed. 'I hate you. I've hated you from the first moment I saw you, I have always hated you and I will always hate you.'
Draco could not have been more pained if Hermione had stabbed a knife in his heart. It felt like his world had fallen to pieces and lay as dust at his feet. His head was bent, his eyes shut.
He didn't reply, only whispered so silently the words didn't reach his own ears. 'You're wrong. You didn't always hate me.'
There was a grey silence, into which Hermione spoke. Her voice had calmed now, and while still afraid, she refused to panic or be upset. Gryffindor bravery. It was something that had been ever-present in Hermione. It would have brought a smile to his face, in happier circumstances. But now, it served only as a reminder of everything he had lost.
'Why am I here? What are you going to do with me?'
Draco wanted to reassure her, although he knew she wouldn't believe anything he said. But he couldn't talk to her, not now.
'I… just… just leave me alone, Hermione.' His words were barely audible, underscored with misery. He lay down in the bed, and turned his face to the wall. His elegance was gone, replaced with the stiff and graceless movements of those too saddened to care.
It was no difficulty for him to sleep. Sadness made him world-weary, and his sleep was light and dreamless.
A/N: Poor Draco! Don't worry – happier things will happen. Eventually.
I have angered the gods of fanfiction by quoting ABBA in this chapter… it was one of those things that happened while you were writing. The lyric used belongs to them. Anyway, I must conduct a human sacrifice to appease them… who to sacrifice… *crazed grin*
Review and I won't sacrifice you!