It was strange weather for late August.
There had been a heat wave throughout the summer, which had almost baked the country to a standstill, but in the last week, it felt like every drop of rain that had been gathered over those six long weeks was falling from the sky in one long surge.
Shaking her umbrella as she pushed the door open, Hermione Granger stepped into the Leaky Cauldron, followed by her parents, pushing back dampened curls of unruly hair from her face.
As usual, the pub was lit only by lanterns here and there and a few grubby windows, although the dark clouds outside had made it even gloomier than usual. A few rain-drenched witches and wizards were clearly taking some time in the little pub to warm up and dry off.
A friendly roaring fire was blazing in the huge, stone grate that took up a large part of the wall to the left of the door, surrounded by a group, each of whom was gripping a tankard and talking quietly to those seated nearby.
A few faces had turned in the young witch's direction, to see whom the new arrival at The Leaky Cauldron was.
On the far side of the pub, a pair of cool grey eyes regarded her, unnoticed. They remained on her as she shook her mass of brown hair out from the collar of the jacket she was wearing to shield herself from the rain that was lashing against the grotty windowpanes of the pub.
With the threat of even worse weather in Oxford, where they lived, her parents had decided it would be wiser to bring her to London a few days early. It was a precaution, in case there were any landslides on the roads that might cause problems when they had to bring her to catch the Hogwarts Express.
After all, they couldn't have her missing school, not now.
Hermione was almost seventeen-years old and was just about to start her seventh and final year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where she had just been given the post of Head Girl, much to her delight.
If all went well, in ten months she would graduate from the school as a fully-fledged witch, a far and fantastic cry from her parents careers as dentists.
Both of her parents were non-magical people, muggles, and they had been thrilled and stunned when Hermione had received the letter from the school, which invited her to study at Hogwarts, seven years before.
In her triad of friends, she was the only one to be muggle-born. Harry Potter was the son of a muggle-born witch and a pureblood wizard, while Ron Weasley was from a pureblood family that dated back generations and she loved them both to bits.
They were going to be joining her soon, she knew and she couldn't wait to see them both again. It had been almost ten weeks since she had seen Harry and just over four since she had seen Ron.
However, since Harry and Ron would be arriving the next day and it was another day after that until they were to go to school, she was still wearing muggle clothing: a knee-length black skirt, grey tights and roll-neck emerald green jumper.
She was the first to admit that she was as interested in fashion and co-ordination as Ron was interested in adopting an army of black widow spiders.
Even the thought of Ron drew a smile from the young witch.
The red-haired boy, so very different from her in nature, who had been a best friend to her and Harry since first year, had finally asked her if she would be his girlfriend in the second term of fifth year.
True, it hadn't exactly been romantic.
First, there had been the threat of Voldemort, which still overshadowed everything that they were doing. Hogwarts was still considered the safest place in the wizarding world, though, and while she worried about her parents, they assured her that she should finish her magical training so she could defend them against him, should the need arise.
Secondly, there had been the whole school still up in arms about what had really happened to Cedric Diggory, many still deeply suspicious of Harry.
It was only when Cho Chang - Cedric's former girlfriend and the girl who Harry held a flame for - told Harry that she believed he was innocent that things had started to return to normal, or as normal as things could be at Hogwarts.
With everything that was happening surrounding those situations, none of the trio had been very interested in the trivial pursuit of dating, the craze which seemed to have a firm grasp on all of the fifth years and above.
On Valentine's morning, Ron and Hermione had both been in the minority that hadn't received a card. Ron had ponderously suggested that maybe they should do each other a favour and be a couple, to save the time and effort of moping over their lack of having a certain someone.
However, the first time they had kissed...
Hermione went pink at the memory.
Something in the kiss had confirmed that she was more than just a convenience.
It had been awkward, a little shy, but then he had kissed her, right in front of the rest of the fifth years, ignoring the whoops and laughter from Seamus, Dean and Neville, she had been convinced she was melting, even though she knew it was impossible.
After all, she had read about it.
Melting and kissing.
They weren't meant to mix, but that was certainly what she had felt like when Ron's mouth had met hers, which was currently spreading into a wide grin.
It was definitely going to be nice to see him again.
Especially since she, Ron and Harry were being left to their own devices for the most part, while they stayed in Diagon Alley, while Molly Weasley occupied herself with keeping Ginny in line.
More importantly, she and Ron would be able to have some time together.
A delicious tremor of anticipation ran through her and she went a bit pinker, turning her attention back to her parents, who were standing behind her, drying themselves off. Her father glanced at his watch.
"We certainly made it in good time," he said cheerfully, running a hand over his thinning hair. "Hermione, perhaps we should get your trunks and things up to the room and out of the way?"
"I'll get the keys, dad," she replied, weaving her way around the narrow tables and chairs, careful not to stand on any robes or feet as she passed. Old Tom, the owner of the Leaky Cauldron gave her a toothy smile. "Hello, Tom."
"Good afternoon to you, Miss Granger. Wanting into your rooms?"
"Yes, please," she smiled. As always, he remembered her. More than likely because of her famed friendship with Harry Potter. He gave her a nod and hurried to get the guest registry for the upper floors of the pub.
Leaning on the bar, she glanced around for any familiar faces. She was sure she wouldn't be the only person who would be coming down to London earlier than usual, thanks to the horrendous weather.
A group of Ministry wizards, looking worn and harassed, were seated at a small knot of tables further up the room, muttering to one another. She spotted Professors Sprout and Sinistra talking quietly at one of the tables near the wall and smiled over at them, receiving a smile and wave from both of the teachers.
Letting her attention move on around the room, a cold feeling spread through her stomach when she found a pair of familiar eyes gazing at her from an equally familiar pale, pointed face.
Only, this was the Senior face.
Although she couldn't say what it was specifically, there was something in the cool expression of the wizard that made her feel like she was being mentally dissected by him. It wasn't a pleasant sensation.
She had only had the misfortune of running into him once, when she, Harry and the Weasleys had been in Flourish and Blotts, almost five years earlier, and she had seen immediately where Draco, Harry's nemesis and Lucius Malfoy's only son, had picked up the unsavoury traits of his personality.
She had seen Lucius Malfoy on several occasions since then and knew that he had seen her.
The closest she had been to him was at the Quidditch World Cup and the look he had given her was one of such disdain and arrogance, that she had hoped she would never have him anywhere near enough for her to see his facial expression.
Looking away sharply, she couldn't have been more relieved when Tom returned with the keys for the two rooms that she and her parents would be staying in.
With the quill he offered, she scratched her name into the massive, leather-bound registry which he had negotiated onto the wide bar, took the heavy keys and hurried back to her parents.
As they made their way towards the stairs, she couldn't help shooting a furtive look at Lucius Malfoy. She had hoped he would be gone. She really didn't feel comfortable to have him in the same building as her muggle parents.
Unfortunately, he hadn't moved.
Steeped in the shadows from the overhanging edge of the bar, a swathe of light cut across his pale face. His eyes drifted from her to her father, who was helping her carry the trunk, and mother, who was carrying Crookshanks and one of Hermione's bags.
Pursing her lips, the young witch flashed a dark look at him.
If he even tried to harm her parents...
His cold grey eyes came back to hers and one of his brows rose, as if querying what she was thinking. With a last scowl in his direction, Hermione turned back to the trunk she was carrying and helped her father steer it up the stairs.
Folding her new robes, Hermione placed them in her open trunk that she was kneeling in front of, smoothing the black material with one hand, as she reached for the next item in the pile beside her.
They had arrived so much earlier than expected that she and her parents had decided to get all her school things out of the way, so they could spend a little more time together in London the next morning, before Harry and Ron did arrive.
The rain was still pelting against the window ferociously and Hermione glanced up as a flash of light flickered through the closed window suggested that a storm was building not too far away.
She was kneeling on the floor of her single room, next to her bed and in front of her large trunk. All of her new things were heaped carefully beside her, in a specifically ordered pile.
Her parents were in the adjoining room and had cheerfully left her to pack the trunk herself because she was always so particular about how she packed everything. They had taken Crookshanks with them, because he tended to curl up either inside the trunk or on top of her fresh, clean clothes, while she tried to pack, so it was safer to have him out of the way.
Humming to herself, she got to her feet and went to retrieve the fresh pack of quills that she had left on the dressing table, which stood on the other side of the bed.
The mirror on the table had been removed when the previous guest had complained, because it had incessantly wolf-whistled at them when they were dressing.
Hermione couldn't help being a little grateful as she knew that her hair was probably going into wild ringlets, after she had been caught in a sudden shower in Diagon Alley, and most mirrors happily teased her for it.
When flash-showers happened in Diagon Alley, they really came down in buckets and Hermione and her parents had all been soaked to the skin by the time they had managed to wade back to the Leaky Cauldron.
Her skirt and jumper were both hanging up to dry on hangers on the wardrobe door, opposite the dresser, forming little puddles on the wooden floor.
She had resorted to wearing her thick, cosy red dressing gown, so she wouldn't have to waste any more clothes than necessary before she left for school. After all, it was a bit stupid, she thought, to wear more than two sets of clothes a day.
Collecting the quills, she snatched her small notebook from the end of the bed, as she returned to the trunk and knelt back down. Tucking the quills into the protective pocket on the lid, she checked her list.
All that left to be re-packed into the neatly arranged trunk were her clothes and school uniform, which were currently heaped in ironed and carefully folded, colour-orientated piles on the bed.
Rising on her knees, she grabbed the pile of white shirts and dragged them towards the end of the bed, a boom of thunder overhead making her jump in fright, then laugh softly at her own nervousness.
A click from behind her, the sound of the door being closed, made her turn in surprise, wondering if one of her parents wanted something.
Her heart jumped painfully against her ribcage at the sight of none other than Lucius Malfoy standing by the door, gazing down at her, his left hand resting casually on the serpent's head of his cane.
One hand instinctively going to her wand, which lay on the floor beside her right knee, she tried to convince her legs to move and get her to her feet, a bitter, burning sensation spreading through her stomach.
Something told her he hadn't accidentally walked into her room by chance and the calm, chilling smile on his lips was definitely not making her feel any more comfortable to see him.
"M-Mr. Malfoy," His cold, silvery gaze was making her feel nervous. "Would you mind leaving my room, please?"
"Such a polite young woman," he murmured. "As I expected," His smile shifted into more of a smirk. "And such...interesting ideas of fashion."
Scrambling to her feet, her wand gripped in her right hand, Hermione's other hand came up to close over the neck of her dressing gown, her cheeks flaming. "I-I would like you to leave my room."
"I'm sure you would, Miss Granger," he replied, gazing steadily at her. Once more, she felt like something that was about to be cut open for examination. "However, I have come here to talk to you and I intend to do so."
Raising her wand, she pointed it at him. It was shaking, but she couldn't give one reason in particular why. "Get out of my room...please."
"Dear dear, Miss Granger," he said, one brow rising. "I thought you were intelligent and yet, you direct your wand at a member of the Ministry of Magic, while you are underage and unable to use it outwith school," He smiled and she fought the urge to back away. "Now, wouldn't it be simply awful if you were expelled before you could complete your final year?"
"What do you want?" she asked, stepping back, her wand dropping back to her side in defeat.
It was very stupid, she realised the next moment, not to use the emergency wizarding act as an excuse, as his right hand swept across his body and with a twist, he jerked the snake head of his cane free, revealing a wand. "Expelliarmus."
It was said almost casually, but Hermione was blasted backwards onto her bed, her wand flying from her fingers. She landed with a jarring jolt, gasping in pain, her dressing gown falling open.
Retrieving her wand with a simple summoning spell, Lucius Malfoy approached the bed with a lazy tread, gazing down at the girl, who was struggling to sit up and trying to pull the dressing gown closed around her body.
The tip of his cane came up and he stilled her hand, leaving her bared but for her plain white underwear, making her look up at him in panic and fear.
"My son tells me that you are involved with one of Arthur Weasley's spawn," he said, his expression neutral. His eyes flicked down her body, then back to her face, which she was sure was white. "Well? Is it true?"
She felt sick, a hot burning feeling building rapidly in her gut. "Y-yes," she replied, wondering if he would leave if she answered all that he asked.
"Interesting," his tone suggested he didn't really think so. Hermione started to edge backwards up the bed, staring at him. "It is almost a pity that you are the mudblood and he is the pureblood."
"Why-why would you say that?" she whispered.
His hooded silver eyes came to her eyes. "You certainly aren't as physically repulsive as some of the cretins in that family," he said in a tone of voice that she didn't really like at all.
Edging sideways, she managed to slide off the bed and onto her feet, pulling her dressing gown tightly closed around her body, her eyes darting to the door that lead to her parents adjoining double room.
"I-I-I think you should leave," she started to try and edge past the end of the bed, where Malfoy was standing. If she could just manage to get one step past him, she would be able to reach the door...
His lips lifted in that smirk she had seen so often on Draco Malfoy's face. However, it had never seemed quite as sinister as it did on Lucius Malfoy's face. "I'm afraid I can't do that, Miss Granger. At least, not yet. I came here for a reason, you see."
"Well, several reasons, if you must know," He glanced to the window as another flash of lightening split the sky and Hermione took that as her chance, running to the door that lead to her parents room, yanking the handle.
It didn't move.
Throwing all her weight on the handle, Hermione released an anguished sob of panic and frustration, her chest heaving as she tried to draw enough breath to stop herself from falling as waves of dizziness pounded in on her, her body tingling with fear.
"Admirable, Miss Granger," Malfoy's voice murmured softly from behind her. She whipped around to face him, opening her mouth to scream, but one of his fingertips came up, touching her lips. "I would not recommend that course of action," he said quietly. "After all, we wouldn't want your dear, helpless muggle parents to be drawn into this situation, would we?"
Hermione's already huge eyes widened.
Surely he wouldn't...
"After all, it would take some explaining, should they be found dead, murdered by your own wand and you with no memory of killing them..."
Tears of anger, fear and hatred glittered in her flashing brown eyes. "You...you filthy... loathsome... vile..." her voice was shaking with the vehemence of every word she spat at him.
"Yes, well, as interesting as these charming pet names are, Miss Granger, I do have a reason for being here," he said, his expression diamond-hard. His right arm crossed in front of her, his knuckles brushing down her right cheek. She shuddered. "As I did mention before."
"And what reason might that be?" She was shivering violently, Malfoy standing over her, less than two feet away from her body. He was taller than her, at least by a head and shoulders, and broad.
"Now, that would be telling, Miss Granger," he said, smiling without humour. "I do hate to ruin the surprise." His eyes drifted over the dressing gown she was wearing and with a gesture from his wand, it dropped - in seamless blocks - to the floor, leaving the girl standing, half-naked.
Cringing back against the door that separated her room from her parents, Hermione couldn't stop the tears that had been building. They streamed silently down her face, as she shrank down, trying to make herself as small as possible.
"I would suggest you do as you are told, Miss Granger," he said, his voice as neutral as it had been moments earlier. He gave her a small, blood-freezing smile. "Or I will make it all the more...uncomfortable for you."
"Please..." She stared up at him desperately, suddenly understanding and hoping uselessly that she was mistaken. Tears were burning in her eyes and spilling down her pale face. "Please, don't do this..."
"Miss Granger, you must realise that such words are redundant," he replied, bending and grabbing her upper arm with one hand, hauling her to her feet. She could barely keep herself upright, her legs shaking, as he directed her over towards the bed, which was littered with her previously orderly clothes.
Forced down onto the bed, face-down, she pressed her eyes shut in humiliation and despair as Malfoy pinned her down by the back of her neck. The burning, sick feeling she had the moment he had appeared in her room had completely engulfed her and she was shaking from head to toe.
Where their wands had gone, she had no idea, nor did she truly care at that moment.
"Good girl," Malfoy murmured, still holding onto her thick hair. "Now," Her face was pushed against the pile of fresh laundry, tears burning their way down her cheeks, which felt ice-cold. "Back to what I was saying."
Hermione gasped aloud as she felt her knickers get pulled away, then the touch of cool, dry, bare skin as his gloveless hand ran the length of her back in what was unmistakably a caress.
A shudder of disgust rocketed through her shivering body and she buried her face in the pile of shirts beneath her, her hands winding into the blankets that were strewn over the bed.
She physically jumped when she felt a sensual brush of lips over her shoulder, soft strands of long, white-blonde hair trailing across her back. Biting down on the shirts beneath her, another sob rose in her throat.
His hands moved on her, sensual and terrifying in the same moment.
They touched parts of her body she had never dared to explore, sliding between her body and the mattress to caress her small breasts and intimate areas in a way that made her gasp aloud in pain and shame, tears soaking rapidly through the shirts beneath her.
What made it worse was that he knew how to touch her, where to touch her, to get the reaction she didn't want to give.
It...it shouldn't have felt good.
It shouldn't have.
She didn't want it to feel as good as he was making it feel. She wanted to hate him and spit on him and not feel pleasure from the way his hands were touching her and he knew it too.
He knew she hated him and yet...yet, she was responding to him...
"Do you imagine that Weasley would appreciate and affect your body, as I do, Granger?" the smooth insidious voice continued to whisper as she tried to pull away from his invasive, probing fingers.
A sharp gasp escaped her.
Ron would hate her.
But her parents...
A shaking half-sob, half-exhalation escaped her, as she let her body go limp beneath him. Let him do what he liked, as long as he parents were safe. Let him break her, shame her, anything, as long as her parents were safe.
Biting down on the fabric of the shirt beneath her to muffle her sobs, she tried not to respond. She tried to force her body not to react, trying to focus her thoughts on safe, loving, gentle, wonderful, caring Ron who would batter Lucius Malfoy's slimy-bastard face in if he knew what he was doing.
She almost laughed bitterly, part of her wishing that Ron would run in and save her, another part begging anyone who was listening that he would never ever find out about what Malfoy was doing.
Holding desperately onto the image of Ron beating the stuffing out of the man who was touching her with such gentle cruelty, she managed to level her breathing, her teeth grinding together, tears still rolling silently down her face.
A knock at the door made her jolt in fright, one of Malfoy's hands thrusting into her hair and jerking her face up. She gasped in pain as her hair was wrenched from her scalp. "Say what you have to, Granger," he growled the caution in her ear. "Their blood will be on your hands..."
It was her mother's voice.
"Hermione, we're going down to get something to eat," her mother called. "Do you want to come with us?"
Malfoy twisted his hand tighter into her hair, making her whimper. She could hear as well as feel the clumps tearing away at the root. "N-no thank you, m-mummy," she managed to call, her voice shaking so hard she was barely coherent. "I-I-I want to finish p-packing first."
"All right, dear. We'll be back in a little while."
A sob escaped the young witch as she heard the receding footsteps, then the quiet click of the door of her parents' room close, leaving her alone and completely at Lucius Malfoy's mercy.
The only sound she could make out was a furious scratching sound on the other side of the door.
She was alone.
Shaking her head wildly, she started to fight against him in earnest. Her parents were gone from their room. They wouldn't be harmed if she started to scream for help now. She had to get away!
A chuckle sounded above her and suddenly, the teasing caresses were gone. One hand slammed down hard between her shoulder blades, pinning her bruisingly down on the bed, a knee pushing her thighs apart.
Thrashing desperately, she lashed out with her feet, struggling under his hands, only to feel a expensively-garbed chest press against her back, lips close to her ears. "Fight all you like, Granger," he hissed. "It's this way or Imperio."
"Let me go!" she cried out.
"I don't think so, Granger," came the chilling reply.
Releasing a wild, ringing scream, she hoped futilely that someone would hear her, wonder what was happening, maybe come to her aid, before her face was forced back into the material beneath her.
"Surely you didn't think I would forget a sound-proofing spell, Miss Granger," he tutted in her ear.
"No..." she moaned against the mattress, squirming.
"Scream all you like," he added in a murmur. "I do like a vocal partner."
Panting wildly, she tried to lift her face again, to jerk away, but then...
Pain so hard, burning and intense that she couldn't even find the breath to scream, crashed in on her from behind, her eyes filling and overflowing with fresh tears, her hands jerking taut in the blankets under her body.
Every single part of her body seemed to have gone utterly rigid, the blood rushing deafeningly in her ears, her vision blurring close to blackness.
Pressing her eyes shut and her lips together, she buried her face in the shirts beneath her, gritting her teeth, ignoring the hot waves streaming down her cheeks, her hands still clenched into the blankets under her as Malfoy abused her.
She wouldn't cry out.
She wouldn't scream.
She wouldn't give him that satisfaction.
She wouldn't...she wouldn't...she wouldn't...
It echoed like a mantra in her head.
I won't...I won't...I won't...
When he finally released her, leaving her slumped on the bed like a ragdoll, she heard him smoothing out his clothes, but she didn't move, her whole body throbbing agonisingly. His hand, gloved once more, ran down her back again.
"Remind me to thank Weasley for not breaking you in, Granger," he said with a cold chuckle. "I always find such pleasure in being the one to tame the shrew."
Hermione shuddered, her stomach wrenching violently, but she forced down the bile that rose in her throat, keeping her face buried in the bed. All she wanted was for him to go away, to leave her alone, to let her cry without him seeing.
A hand twisted into her hair and her face was forcibly jerked up, Malfoy standing by the side of the bed, gazing down at her. Blinking back bitter tears, she stared at him defiantly, blood trickling from the lip she had bitten through to prevent herself from crying out.
Even just looking at his smug, smirking face made her want to be violently sick.
"I'll be sure to come by and see you soon, Granger," he murmured. "You and your charming parents and, of course, Weasley," He smiled at her, making her shudder. "I do think he'll enjoy this little story when you tell him."
Drawing ragged, shaking breaths through her nose, Hermione's bloody lips pressed together. She didn't trust herself to speak or open her mouth without either vomiting or bursting into tears again.
"And I'm certain that he would want to know about that rather sensitive spot you have just..." A hand casually brushed over a certain spot in the middle of her back, making her recoil with a gasp. "There."
The smirk on his lips spoke measures.
He knew more about her body than she did and definitely a lot more than Ron did.
What was she going to tell him?
That she had been violated by Malfoy?
And that the man had practically seduced her body?
That, if Malfoy had maintained his sensual assault to the end, she might have been a willing participant?
Did that make her a slut?
Would Ron think she was a slut?
What if he didn't want to be near her, if he thought she was used goods?
What if he hated her...?
The tears she had forced down returned full force, stinging painfully in the corners of her eyes and spilling over, down her face. Lowering her head, she buried her face in her arms and started to sob.
Above her, she heard Malfoy laugh again, cold and hard.
There was a pop and she knew she was alone again.
Curling onto her side, tears pouring down her face, she pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged them, blood and other fluids sticky on the insides of her thighs, pain radiating through her body.
"Oh, you're all packed, Hermione! Can I let Crookshanks back in? It looks like he's been scratching at the door on this side."
Sitting in the middle of her re-made bed, Hermione looked up at her mother, her red-rimmed eyes shadowed by her freshly scrubbed hair hanging in curtains around her pale face, blotches on her cheeks, and smiled faintly.
"Yes, mummy," she replied, returning her eyes to her latest transfiguration book.
She had been looking at the pages of the book for the last hour, since she piled her blood stained and fluid-spattered clothes into her trunk uncaring of how organised they were, but she hadn't taken in a single word that she had read.
Crookshanks pushed passed her mother's feet and clambered up onto the bed, where she was sitting. Forcing the book out of her hands with his head, he settled straight into her lap and rose on his hind paws to nuzzle her face.
"Did you have a bath, dear?"
Hermione nodded, stroking between Crookshanks' ears. "I was a mess because of the rain and...and everything," she replied, not raising her eyes from her cat. "I needed to clean myself up for when Harry and Ron arrive."
"Do you want me to get you something to eat?"
"No...no, thank you. I'm not hungry. Did...did you have a nice meal?"
"Oh, yes," Mrs Granger replied, smiling. "We ended up sitting with a couple of your teachers downstairs. They were charming."
"They always are," Hermione said, rubbing her nose against Crookshanks', his gold eyes staring at her in a way that said he knew exactly what had been happening, when he had been locked out of her room. "Mummy, I think I might get an early night. I'm rather tired..."
"All right, Hermione. Do you want me to take Crookshanks?"
"No...No, I want to keep him here."
She vaguely registered her mother closing over the door with a chuckle and an amused "Good night, dear."
She didn't respond though.
"Oh, Crookshanks," she whispered, gathering her beloved marmalade cat to her chest, tears starting afresh. "You know what happened, don't you? You know what that thing... you know what he did, don't you?"
Crookshanks rose in her lap and continued to nuzzle her face comfortingly, as she hugged him and wept.