Lucius Malfoy's townhouse stood on a handsome, cobbled street in London, a street occupied only by wealthy wizardfolk who wanted to live in the city but preferred not to mix with the Muggles. Mostly Purebloods fit this description, of course, so it was no surprise to Hermione that Lucius Malfoy had a second home here. What surprised her, rather, was the state of the place. Inside, the house was dark and quiet as a tomb, with air that seemed stale in her lungs. Edmond Dungby's blood was already soaked into the fibres of the extravagant Persian rug in the sitting room.
"At least he didn't get any of it on the hardwood," Seamus said, covering his face with his sleeve and frowning at the pungent odour.
Hermione wrinkled her nose. Dungby's skin had turned a sickly green, which grew faintly purplish over his chubby hands.
"My guess is he's been dead for at least a couple of days," she said, squatting down and examining his face. The look of fear still reflected in his lifeless eyes brought a cold shiver down her spine. "Probably killed over the weekend."
"That would make sense, since that's when he was reported missing," Seamus said, strolling to the large bay window. He gingerly pushed the curtain away with the tip of his wand, evidently so disgusted by the house he dared not touch a thing, and peeked at the street outside. "And where do you think Lucius Malfoy's crawled off to?" he asked, as if he might spot him skipping up the drive.
"He could be anywhere," Hermione said absently. The top two buttons of Dungby's shirt were ripped off the thread. If she looked for them, she'd probably find them somewhere nearby. Dried brownish blood stained his torn collar, which hung off his shoulder. "It's difficult to make out…" she murmured, observing the man's neck. "It looks like an animal clawed his throat open."
Giving up on the inspection for now, Hermione sighed as she stood up again. "Could be. We won't be able to find out anything more from his body until we clean him up. He's a mess, poor fellow." When she had first joined the Auror's investigative team, she'd been horrible around blood. Sort of like Seamus was now. But seeing countless corpses does rid a person of their squeamishness.
Still fresh on the job, Seamus grimaced as he took another look at the corpse. "The Mediwizards will come pick it up later. Meanwhile, we can start looking for Malfoy."
Hermione crossed her arms as she stared down at the mangled man. "I want to know what did this."
"Or who did it..."
"And who is this Dungby, really? What connection did he have to Malfoy?" She licked her lip as a memory rapidly surfaced; Lucius Malfoy's unshaven face at his trial two years ago. "Why did this happen?"
Seamus walked past her muttering darkly, but she couldn't comprehend what he was saying. Her mind was a whirlwind of thoughts and images. When Dungby had been reported missing three days ago, she had never imagined the trail would lead them to Lucius Malfoy.
They had to find out where that man had vanished to.
The parchment had turned grey, but Lucius Malfoy's straight figure was still striking. Hermione smoothed out the softening page of the old newspaper. Finding a copy of the June 1998 Daily Prophet had been surprisingly easy; many people kept their issues from that precious period.
The front page showed Lucius flanked by two surly Aurors as he marched into the Wizengamot courtroom. Hermione had watched the image loop so many times, she had completely forgotten she was on her lunch break.
Just as Lucius reached the door, he looked up into the camera. Hermione couldn't look away from his eyes as he stared up from the page, like he saw her there too. Like he was watching her just as intently as she was watching him. She could hear the click in her mind as a flash lit the lines of his cheek and jaw, just before stringy white-blond hair fell into his face and the Aurors pushed him through the courtroom door.
She realized her breath was coming short every time it looped around, at that moment when he looked up. Had Lucius Malfoy always been so handsome? Not that she would ever fancy such a foul man, but she could appreciate objective beauty. When she was a girl she never noticed him as anything other than a bully and a Death Eater, but now she wondered about the line of his jaw, and the breadth of his shoulders...
A knock on her door made Hermione jump. She turned in her chair just as Harry walked into her office.
"I knew I'd find you here," Harry teased as he approached her desk. "Do you ever eat lunch on your lunch break?" He perched on the edge with his legs crossed at the ankles.
"I got distracted by work."
"Typical. What are you looking at?"
Her pulse jumped as he leaned in to peek at the clipping, and she folded it up quickly and tucked it away in a drawer of her desk. "I found an old article from Lucius Malfoy's trial, but it's proving to be a complete waste of time." She didn't want to let on how long she'd been staring at Lucius' picture.
"Speaking of Malfoy, that's what I came up here for. I just heard back from the medics."
"You?" Hermione frowned. "Where's Seamus?"
"Asked me to cover for him this morning; he wasn't feeling well."
"I'm sure," she said, resisting rolling her eyes. "He's not very good with dead bodies."
Harry grinned. "No, he's not. Which is strange considering he became an Auror and all."
"He likes the chases and the wand fights." Hermione shrugged. "No, not those kinds of wand fights," she added as Harry gave her a cheeky smile. "I find it amusing that ever since you discovered you're gay, you expect every bloke you meet to be as well."
"Of course I don't expect it... I just wish it."
Hermione figured she ought to look disapproving but found it hard to suppress a small smile. "So what is this news, then? Tell me they found some evidence on the body." Harry opened his mouth but before he could speak, she interrupted him, her mind racing through the details like she was going down a checklist. "The house was completely clean and devoid of humanity. It was like Lucius had never stepped foot in there. Not one single hair or fingerprint - the only thing connecting Lucius to the scene is his name on the deed. Otherwise, we have no evidence that he's even been at his own house for months."
"Yes," Harry said. "Seamus caught me up on everything."
"I just don't understand it," she said as she cradled her chin in her hand.
"Then you'll be even more stumped after you hear this."
Hermione looked up again with interest.
"His throat was in rough shape, but they think the slashes are actually bite marks."
"So Seamus's werewolf theory…?"
"I don't think so," Harry said. "There was no full moon around his time of death."
"Right, there wasn't," Hermione said, trying to recall the date on the calendar. "But we've known werewolves to attack outside the full moon."
"It's a bit rare, though."
"Are they sure they weren't claws?"
"They're almost positive - there were traces of saliva on the wounds. But the thing is, when they analyzed the saliva they couldn't detect if it was … human or not." Harry's eyes lit up like they usually did when he was equal parts intrigued and stumped by a case. "It was untraceable."
"So we don't know who left it there?"
"Or what," Harry said. "It likely wasn't a werewolf but it could have been some other creature."
"It doesn't have to be a creature."
"I bet it was."
"How do you reckon that? I think it could easily have been a man."
"A man? Hermione, what man chomps at a person's neck as opposed to just hexing him?"
Hermione scoffed. "Oh, I don't know. There could be a multitude of explanations…" she trailed off, though she knew Harry was probably right.
"You just want Lucius Malfoy to be the culprit," Harry said, his tone too accusatory for her liking.
"I… No I don't! It's just the most logical answer."
"And why is that?" Harry asked. "Because the body was found at his house?"
Hermione raised her eyebrows pointedly. "Exactly."
"Hermione, how many times have we been on cases where the answer wasn't always the simplest one?" he asked. "I'm thinking if it wasn't a werewolf, it could potentially be a vampire."
"A vampire doesn't seem likely," she said, "since they tend to be neater with their prey. Vampire bite marks are obvious. And even if we were to entertain that possibility, what connection would a vampire have with Malfoy and with Dungby?"
"I wouldn't put it past Lucius Malfoy to be buddied up with a vampire or two," Harry said with a scowl. "To make them do all his dirty work for him."
"Look, I did some digging," she said, rifling through the stacks of parchment on her desk to find her notes. "Dungby was Malfoy's liaison at Gringotts, he handled all of Malfoy's accounts, dealt with the Goblins, went to the bank to pick things up... that sort of thing. Sort of like his personal banker."
Harry snorted. "Of course Lucius Malfoy would have a personal banker."
"Over the last few weeks, Dungby had been slowly withdrawing the gold from the Malfoy vault." She paused to look at Harry, who was listening with a furrowed brow. "I'm not sure why, or where the gold was going, as no one at Gringotts would speak to me about it. You know how secretive Goblins are."
"A little too secretive, in my opinion," Harry muttered, frowning.
"It turns out Dungby had almost cleared the account to zero last Thursday. His wife reported him missing on Friday, claiming he didn't return home from work." She set her notes down and looked up.
"Was there any activity on the account on Friday?"
Hermione licked her lip. "You know, I didn't even check on that." She jotted down a reminder to herself to owl the bank and ask.
Harry took a deep breath as he thought. "I wonder how the creature got into Malfoy's house. And what was Dungby doing there? Do you think it was really Malfoy it was after and Dungby was just at the wrong place at the wrong time?"
"You know what I think?" she said, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms. "You just want this to be some mad adventure, which is why you're looking for the most complicated explanation that will take us on a wild goose chase."
"All right, all right," Harry said, holding up his hands in mock surrender. "How about we make a bet? You say it's Malfoy, and I say it's a creature."
Hermione let her head fall against the back of the chair and let out a groan. "Bloody men and your bets! Seamus does this every time, it's like he can't solve a case without betting on the outcome of it."
"Come on, Ron and I do it. It makes it more fun."
Hermione smiled despite herself. "What are the terms?"
"If I win, you buy me a celebratory dinner and admit I'm the best Auror there's ever been."
She stared at him. "Really?"
"That's what Ron makes me do when he wins."
"And if I win, what do I get?"
"You won't." Harry grinned.
"Cocky." Hermione shook her head. "You've become very cocky." She smiled. "It's quite adorable on you, so I'll let it slide."
Harry laughed as he straightened up. "Well, I'm off to go find the creature that did this. Good luck trying to find Malfoy. Where is he again? Oh, that's right - no one knows."
"Getting less and less adorable," Hermione said, narrowing her eyes.
Hermione couldn't help it - she couldn't get Lucius Malfoy out of her mind. He's a bastard, she thought over and over again like a mantra, forcing herself to relive every insulting thing he'd ever said about her or about Muggle-borns. He's a bigoted, dirty bastard who should have been put in Azkaban to rot away forever.
The Department of Magical Law Enforcement was quiet after seven o'clock, but when she stopped by Harry's office he was still finishing up some paperwork from one of his own cases. He stopped scribbling and looked up at her. "Where are you going?"
"I… just need to go check on a lead quickly." She forced a smile. "I'll be home later and we'll order in, yeah?"
"I'll see what Ron's doing," Harry said. "He's probably home by now wondering where we are."
"Ask him what he wants for dinner," Hermione said as she rushed out the door.
Wrapping her robes tightly around herself, she emerged into the brisk air and made her way to an alley close by. When she was sure no Muggles were walking past and no one would see her, she took a deep, fortifying breath. She closed her eyes and focused on the image of Lucius Malfoy's sitting room, and then Disapparated.
Blinking a few times, her eyes adjusted to the darkness and shapes started to take the form of furniture and lamps and walls. With a wave of her wand and a whispered, "Lumos," she set the oil lamps aflame. Their light cast an orange glow over everything it touched and just barely illuminated the shadows. Everything in this room was the same as the Aurors had left it, minus the body. But the carpet was still stained with blood in an eerily human-shaped outline.
Hermione slowly crossed the sitting room and entered the hallway, where a staircase loomed. The darkness swallowed the top steps, and they seemed to lead to nowhere. She lit the tip of her wand. Putting one foot delicately in front of the other, she felt her way up the steps until she reached the next floor.
Her skin prickled under her robes as if the cold on this level of the house seeped through the layers of fabric just to bite her. A shiver overtook her, and she crossed her arms as she continued down the hall.
From somewhere not nearly far enough away came a shuffling noise, and Hermione spun around with her wand instantly at the ready.
Nothing. There was nothing there… not that she could see much. Maybe she had imagined the noise.
It was then she noticed the thin line of light coming from a door down the hall that was cracked open the tiniest bit. Hermione took hold of the handle and, heart racing, pulled the door open enough so she could peer inside. As far as she could tell, there was nothing - and no one - there. With a steadying breath, she entered the room, all her senses alert.
And perhaps she was being paranoid, but she immediately felt the uncomfortable sensation of a watchful stare.
She held her wand aloft as she walked across a thick carpet, illuminating a four-poster bed with its heavy curtains drawn open and tied off. Next to it was a nightstand, and at its foot an upholstered Victorian chair with wooden arms and legs. As quickly as it came, the eerie feeling of another presence dissipated and Hermione let out the breath she had been holding, chastising herself for being silly and letting her nerves get the better of her. She was no novice, for pity's sake, she was an experienced Auror now.
She inspected the bed, which was still as neat and tidy as the day the Aurors left it after their initial sweep of the house. She reached out and laid a hand on the silky bedspread, running her palm over it as she walked down the length of the bed. Something hot stirred deep inside her; if Lucius Malfoy had been staying in this place, this is where he'd have slept. She quickly pulled her hand off the coverlet.
As she reached the foot of the bed her foot struck something, and she looked down to see a pair of green slippers. Hermione leaned down, holding her wand over them. The tops were embroidered with the initials L.M. in gold thread. For a fleeting moment, she had the absurd desire to reach down and check if they were still warm.
And then something fluttered in her chest as she realized... These slippers hadn't been here before. At least, not that she remembered. So either she had overlooked them in her meticulous analysis of this room - which was unlikely - or someone had indeed been here since.
She stood up quickly. Every nerve in her body was alive, ready to bump into Malfoy at any moment. He could be in this house right now. But if so, why hadn't he shown himself?
Maybe because he's guilty. Hermione felt the truth of it in her bones. She couldn't say how, and there was no real evidence, but she knew.
A low dresser stood against the wall opposite the bed, and Hermione looked at the items scattered atop it for more clues of someone's presence. She remembered them all being here before. The pair of leather gloves, soft as butter in Hermione's wandering hands. The ivory comb, smooth and hard, not even a strand of hair left tangled in its teeth. The pair of cufflinks tossed on a tray. Hermione picked up the glass bottle topped with a stopper. The liquid swirling inside hypnotized her, and she uncorked it. Cologne. His cologne. She inhaled, closing her eyes to luxuriate in the musky and woody combination that set her insides curiously on edge. This was what Lucius Malfoy's neck must smell like.
Oh, this is ridiculous. She quickly put the lid back on the bottle and set it on the dresser. She wasn't going to let herself entertain such ludicrous feelings. She was an Auror, and she was here to do a job.
With that affirmation ringing through her head, she firmly stamped out all thoughts of what had made her come here. It was probably high time she left and got back to the flat before the boys grew worried about her, as they were apt to do. Just as she was about to close her eyes and Disapparate, she felt a chill against her neck.
Hermione held her breath as she turned her head.
Then she shrieked as someone grabbed her arm. A strong hand clamped over her mouth, muffling the sound. Her wand slipped from her fingers as a body pressed against hers from behind, holding her firmly. The familiar scent of cologne told her who it was without a doubt...
"Be still now," he said quietly into her ear.
Hermione canted her hips, trying to wriggle free of his grip. He pinned her arms behind her with one of his, holding them together at the elbows. Hermione tried to bite, kick, thrash, but he was stronger and much bigger.
"Be still," he repeated, this time more forcefully.
Even through her panic, her brain told her it would be wiser to just do what he said now, and then find a way to escape later when she saw an opening. When she gave up struggling and leaned limply against his body, he removed his hand from her mouth.
"Malfoy," she spat, attempting to steady her breath and calm her racing pulse. His chuckle was gritty, and she wished she could see his face. "Let me go," she said, struggling one more time before giving up again just as quickly.
"Not a chance, little girl," he drawled, his mouth near her ear. "Particularly since you're trespassing. What are you doing in my house?" Hermione was painfully aware of his free hand sliding down her hips. "Sneaking up on me?"
"No I wasn't, and get your hands off me!" Hermione demanded, determinedly ignoring the growing heat settling between her legs at the silky sound of his voice.
"Not until you tell me what you were hoping to find on your little adventure."
"You know what I'm going to find, Malfoy," she said, glad her voice sounded even and unafraid. She just hoped he couldn't feel her racing pulse. "You killed Edmond Dungby."
"Is that so?"
"I know it is, and you know it is. And I'm going to prove it."
Malfoy's lips grazed her ear, and she felt her knees weaken. "I'm curious to know how you'll prove anything," he said. He pulled her arms back roughly, arching her body so that her breasts were thrust forwards. Hermione felt exposed, even under her robes. His breath was warm on her skin as he spoke, setting off a fluttering in her stomach. "In fact, I invite you to try."
"Thanks," she managed to snap, "but I don't need your permission."
"Such the fierce little Auror," he mocked softly. "And what have you found out so far?"
Hermione hesitated, her mind racing. She had to figure out how to get away, that was the most pressing matter. She shouldn't have let Malfoy know she suspected him. Rookie mistake, she thought sourly. What would he do now? Would he hurt her to keep her quiet? Would he kill her?
He shook her roughly and Hermione's head snapped back, making her cry out. "Tell me, girl, what is it you think you know about me?"
Hermione concentrated on not panicking. Aurors didn't panic. Harry wouldn't panic in a situation like this. "Nothing," she breathed.
"Nothing? But a moment ago, you were so sure."
She bit her lip, willing herself to remain quiet.
"You had better have some answers for me," he murmured, his free hand roaming up and down her body. "And soon."
Suddenly he threw her to one side and she fell against the heavy Victorian chair. Before she could scramble to her feet, he was in front of her, his hands tight on her shoulders.
"Get off me," she yelled as he shoved her into the chair. She could see the outline of his face but not his features - it was too dark. "Let me go!"
"You know," he said as she felt something soft encircle her left wrist, "I could do this by magic." She tried to jerk her arm away and discovered that he had tied it tightly to the wooden arm of the chair. He seized her other wrist, ignoring her attempts to kick him. "It would take less than a second to cast Petrificus or Relashio..." he mused as he swiftly bound her other wrist, "...but it's much more fun when you struggle."
"You're mad!" she said, her heart nearly jumping through her chest. "Let me go. What are you going to do to me?"
"Oh, don't worry," he purred, his face close to hers. "It won't hurt." Then he pressed his nose to her neck and inhaled deeply. It could have been seconds. It could have been hours. Hermione didn't know, his skin was on her skin. "You smell like life," he said, his breath tickling her.
She had no time to wonder at his bizarre words, for in the next moment, he pulled away.
Hermione hated how her body reacted to him, and yet she had no control over it. Her skin burned where he touched her, and she told herself desperately that it was because she hated him.
Yes, she hated him. So very much.
He kicked her legs apart, and she hated herself for spreading them. She hated herself even more when his hand found her inner thigh and gripped it, and she inhaled sharply to stop the whimper bubbling up in her chest.
"I know you're enjoying this," Lucius said, sliding his hand up her thigh. Hermione bit her lip, closed her eyes. "I can smell it."
The odd thing was, she could smell him too, like a warm blanket enveloping her and drawing her to him, and it was not just his cologne - it was something stronger, more magnetic, like something clenching deep in her core.
When her mind registered the softness of his lips against her neck, she shuddered violently. His chuckling was soft, and he brushed the tip of his nose against her skin again.
"You see?" he breathed.
Hermione tried to tell him he was wrong, but her voice seemed to have stopped working, and all that came out was a noise that sounded embarrassingly like a groan. She bit her lip to stop herself as he kissed her again, one kiss after the other against the sensitive skin just underneath her jaw. The worst thing of all was how her body responded to his touch. She could feel it in her breasts, and she found herself wishing he would touch her there. And between her legs, where a frustrating ache bloomed.
He pulled away, and her neck was cold in his absence. Then suddenly, she felt a stinging pain in the place of his lips, and his thumb was at her throat, holding her steady. Had he just scratched her?
His grip was strong, like a choke hold. Even as Hermione struggled to breathe, her heart raced frantically, waiting for his next move. She didn't expect him to lean in again and this time slide his tongue over the cut. She winced as it stung again momentarily, and then closed her eyes and let lust wash over her.
His fist tightened, and Hermione rasped for breath. Panic swiftly erased anything else, and she kicked and tried to lift her arms.
Almost as quickly as it began, the choking stopped, and Lucius stepped away from her.
Hermione drew in a long, delicious breath. Her head began to unfog.
"I think this is where I'll leave you," Lucius said from somewhere in the darkness. She could no longer see him. "I didn't intend to do anything but detain my interloper tonight."
She thought she saw him move toward the door, but she couldn't be sure. She could only see shapes of things. She realized she might actually be alone in the dark.
Moments ticked by in her mind, but there was just dead silence.
"H… hello?" Her voice sounded like it hadn't been used for ages. "Malfoy, are you there?"
She was met only with quiet. Until… a very faint sound of footsteps sounded from outside the bedroom. Hermione strained her ears to hear them again, but they were muffled and far away.
"Hello?" she repeated. "Malfoy?"
The footsteps became louder, and then turned into the stomping of someone quickly climbing up the stairs. She didn't think that sound like Malfoy. She held her breath, not sure who to expect, if they were friend or foe.
Whoever it was had cast a Lumos and their wandlight was leading the way, illuminating the hall and the doorframe as they approached. Hermione held her breath, watching the door. Then the person came into sight, and Hermione almost laughed in relief when she saw him.
"Harry! Oh, Harry, thank god it's you."
"Hermione, what's going on?" He ran to her, eyes wide as he looked down at her. "How did this happen?"
Her cheeks started to heat up. "Er… I came to look at the house one more time, you know, to check for things we might have missed."
"At this time of night?" He pointed his wand at her wrists one at a time, and her bindings snapped free.
"It's hardly that late," she said, rubbing the spots where the ties had been.
"It's almost nine and it's dark! We were so worried about you, wondering where you'd gone off to without telling anyone."
"I told you," she said curtly as actual irritation seeped into her now, "I was going to check on some leads."
"That's the only reason I even thought to come here, and lucky I did." Harry pressed his lips together. "We're getting mobiles - I don't care if they don't work well with magic, you can fix them up and make them work."
Hermione felt the guilt rise in her chest; she knew he truly did worry about her safety. But at the same time she wanted to grab his shoulders and shake him. "You know, I am a trained Auror, same as the two of you." She could hear the childishness in her own voice.
"Right, that's why I found you tied to a chair, with your wand nowhere in sight."
Her frustration rising, Hermione looked around the floor for her wand. "Malfoy caught me by surprise and I dropped it."
"Malfoy? Lucius Malfoy?" he said, alarm clearly evident in the rising pitch of his voice.
"Well I certainly don't mean Draco Malfoy, do I? Hold your wand out to light the floor, over there," she said, pointing to the spot where she'd been standing when Lucius had grabbed her.
Speaking of Draco, he might actually be just the Malfoy she needed. Seamus hadn't been able to reach him for questioning about his father, but Hermione wasn't about to let the haughty prat get away that easily. He and his father had always been close; if anyone knew how to get in contact with Lucius, it was surely his son.
"Hermione, we're going to talk about this."
"Don't worry," she said, finally spotting her wand. "I'll fill you both in when we get home."
"He licked your neck?" Ron asked with a grimace.
Harry was frowning at her so hard, she thought his brows might permanently fuse together. At least he wasn't yelling, although he looked like he was about to.
"Yes," she said, sighing heavily. She pulled her oversized jumper back up her shoulder where it had slipped off, then began to readjust her ponytail.
She sat curled up in the big armchair in their sitting room while Ron lay on the sofa and Harry stretched out on the floor. Her tea was surely cold by now because they had asked her a thousand questions about that evening and she hadn't had a chance to touch it. Of course, there were some things she did not share - like how Lucius's palm had rubbed over her inner thigh and made her entire body tremble.
No, they did not need to know all of those particular details.
"Did you bleed when he scratched you?" Harry asked.
Hermione chewed her lip. "I'm almost positive I did because it stung quite a bit. And look at it now," she said, stretching her neck.
"Yes, it does look sort of different than a normal scratch." Harry ran a hand through his hair. "And he licked it, which is weird."
"Yes," Hermione said, remembering something from an old textbook. "You know, vampires usually lick their victim's wounds to stop the bleeding."
Harry frowned again, then crossed his arms as he leaned back against the sofa.
"You bloody idiots," Ron said, "maybe he's the vampire."
Hermione looked at Harry, and he looked back at her with what was probably the same look of resigned acceptance she felt on her face. It was impossible not to consider the possibility, not after he had licked her and actually healed the wound; that evidence was pretty spot on for vampire. But last time she'd checked, Lucius Malfoy wasn't a vampire, he was just an ordinary wizard… and one who was not so secretly biased against magical creatures at that.
"Then we have to assume he was bitten sometime between his trial and now," Hermione said. "He can't have been one before, it would have been obvious." She began chewing her lip again, her mind abuzz.
"It does make sense, considering everything," Harry said.
"It just all seems so implausible," Hermione said.
"Doesn't seem all that implausible to me," Ron said. "I bet he ticked off a vampire somehow, and knowing Lucius Malfoy, I'm sure it wasn't hard for him to do. And then the vampire got sick of his pompous arse and attacked him, and Malfoy's been hiding it ever since."
Hermione couldn't say she disagreed with any of it. Everything Ron was saying was certainly possible. "Maybe you're right," she said, suddenly feeling very drained.
If Lucius was a vampire, what did that mean for her? She raised her hand subconsciously to the scratch on her neck, rubbing at it.
"It means he killed Dungby," Harry said, distracting her from her thoughts. "He tore the man's throat out with his fangs and then fled his home, knowing the Aurors would be after him and that if they caught him, everyone would find out what he was."
Hermione nodded. But even as she listened and agreed with Harry's theory, she remembered that feeling she'd had earlier. That peculiar, magnetic feeling that made her body hot and her stomach flutter.
She dropped her hand discreetly to her pocket, where the newspaper clipping with Lucius's photo was folded up and tucked away.
Draco Malfoy lived in a flat on the top floor of a very chic building overlooking the Thames. She wouldn't expect any less from him, although it surprised her that he lived amongst so many Muggles.
"Actually," Harry said as they walked out of the lift, "loads of witches and wizards live here."
"They do? Why didn't I know this?"
Harry shrugged. "I just heard from Neville. It's mainly a bunch of annoying rich ones like Draco who think they're so great."
"Well," she said as they walked down the hall, "all I want to know is if he's hiding Lucius here as well."
"I didn't really notice signs of anyone else -"
Hermione stopped walking and stared at him. "What do you mean you didn't notice?"
"Have you been to Draco's flat already?"
"Once or twice…"
"You mean to ask him about this case already?"
"All right, listen," he said, as if bracing her for something. "It wasn't about the case." As he bit his lip, Hermione wondered if she should actually grab him and shake him this time or if she should ignore all of this for now and pretend they never had this conversation. Her incredulity must have been obvious, because he added, "Don't look angry."
"Don't look angry? Harry, this is… Well, it's a shock. Since when has this been going on?"
"Nothing's going on," Harry said, turning away from her. "Let's go, and don't be weird when we get there."
"Ohh, I see," she said, throwing up her hands. They reached Draco's door and Harry knocked. "Heard from Neville, did you?" she said under her breath, watching the color ripen on his cheeks.
Feeling like the worst hypocrite in the world, but still somehow justified in being peeved by this newfound friendship she wasn't sure she wanted Harry to be having, Hermione straightened her back as the door opened. Her pulse instantly spiked when she saw sharp features and blond hair, but then she breathed easier as she recognized Draco Malfoy.
Draco. Not Lucius. Though their similarity was striking.
"Draco," she said, as though she had to repeat it once out loud just to be sure.
Draco's eyes moved to her, and she felt like she was being scrutinized. "Hello, Granger," he said.
Hearing his voice was strange after all these years, like being thrown back in time.
To her relief, he moved on from her and attached his gaze to Harry. Something briefly lit up Draco's face, but it was gone in a moment. "Potter," he said with a nod. "Come on in, then." He stepped aside, making room for them.
Hermione walked in first and Harry followed. She was momentarily entranced by Draco's flat, not having expected it to be quite so open and bright.
Draco shut the door. "So what is this so-called confidential business you needed to discuss with me?"
Hermione didn't know how to start. Luckily, Harry started for her.
"We just want to ask you a few questions about your father."
Draco put his hands in his pockets. "I already told your other man, Finnegan, that I haven't seen my father in months."
"Yes," Harry pressed, "but that's all you told him."
Draco shrugged. "That's all I know."
"You're lying," Hermione said, ignoring Harry's admonishing glare.
Draco remained as impassive as ever. "And why would you think that?" he drawled.
"Please," Hermione scoffed. "I just know."
"And this is how you typically solve cases, Granger? You 'just know'? Well, no wonder the Ministry's gone to shit."
"Draco," Harry said in a low voice, his expression darkening.
Draco laughed lightly. "What? I think I bring up a good point."
"You're insufferable," Hermione said, sighing heavily. "Where's the loo?"
"Down the hall," Harry said, before catching himself and turning pink again.
Hermione spun around and proceeded down the hallway. She'd let Harry talk to Draco; there was no getting anywhere with him anyway. He would never betray his father, of that she was absolutely sure. No, it was a complete waste of time coming here. When she and Harry used to be partners, they'd had a system for people like him. One of them would serve as a distraction, and the other would "go to the loo."
Hermione stepped on the balls of her feet so as not to alert Draco that she was not where she was meant to be - although he was probably too wrapped up in Harry to notice.
She opened the door to what she assumed was Draco's bedroom. I should just ask Harry if it is, she thought, rolling her eyes.
Again somewhat surprisingly, the room was nothing extraordinary; just a big, sunny room with an unmade bed and a dresser with one drawer open and a shirt hanging out of it. The only other major piece of furniture was a writing desk underneath one of the windows. Hermione walked over to it and glanced over the papers strewn about.
Underneath an open journal with some illegible scribbling, a piece of parchment stuck out. It was covered in curled writing, and Hermione made out the word "sorry." She lifted the journal, setting it aside carefully so that she could replace it later just as it had been, and skimmed the last two paragraphs of the letter.
I never wanted to hurt you, Draco. You must know that I love you very much. But the truth is I'm happier here, and your father is happier in England. Why either of you stay there anymore, I will never know, but we each must do what is best for ourselves.
Just because your father and I aren't together anymore does not mean we are no longer a family. Please remember that. And know that I'm sorry.
Always with love,
The strange mixture of coldness and affection struck Hermione as fitting for Mrs Malfoy. Or whatever it was she called herself now, for apparently she no longer was Mrs Malfoy. It was dated a few years ago, and yet it was at the top of Draco's mess.
Hermione moved the letter aside and began to skim the one underneath. There was no date on this one, but the parchment looked new by comparison and the words freshly inked. It wasn't signed, but Hermione's heart sped up as somehow she knew exactly whom it was from.
Draco - Something's happened.
Keep them away from the London house.
I have to sort this thing out, and until I do, I'll be staying at the manor. Write if you need me.
The parchment was embossed with a heavy family seal. Hermione traced the ornate "M" with her index finger.
This time, Hermione was ready. She wasn't going to lose her wand, she wasn't going to be caught off guard and tied up, and she definitely wasn't going to let Lucius get the better of her. She had already told Harry to be ready when she called him.
She scanned the hallway of the Manor. It had been simple to get in since the place was no longer inhabited by the Malfoys and therefore pretty much abandoned. Hermione easily detangled the elementary protection spells. It stood as a ghost of its former self, for what sane person wanted to visit the place where Voldemort had spent his days? Inside, a muffling charm on her boots made her steps inaudible. Coupled with the Disillusionment charm she wore, it was like she wasn't even there.
The tip of her wand glowed a dull grey in every room, and she was starting to get antsy. She twirled the wand in her fingers as she walked. He had to be here somewhere, the question was where. Her tracing spell would find him. She started upstairs with the bedrooms, then made her way steadily downward.
The tip of the wand began to change colour, gleaming a faint grey-red, and Hermione paused. Finally, it was picking up on something! She took a few more steps and watched the light become redder and redder the further she walked. Before she knew it, she was jogging through the hallway, holding the wand up to every door she encountered. The tracing spell shifted from grey to red, showing her the way. It took her around the corner and then Hermione stopped.
She looked up at the grand doors, parted to reveal a massive room. On all sides, the walls were lined with books. Hermione caught her breath as she looked around, fascinated by the sight. And the smell, musty like millions of unopened pages. Hermione inhaled deeply, closing her eyes.
Then the other scent, the one that was quickly becoming familiar, began wrapping itself around her like a possessive embrace.
She looked down at her tracing spell. It was glowing bright red.
She canceled the spell and stood very still, scanning the room. He was in here, she could feel it. He lurked somewhere in the corners, where the shadows could hide him. He was probably watching her right now.
Hermione shook off the shiver that thrummed up her spine.
"I know you're in here," she said, the volume of her voice startling her in the dead quiet of the library. She looked around. "Come out and face me like a man." Even though her goading didn't seem to be working, she was happy that her voice was coming out even and not shaky like she felt. "Or are you scared?" she asked. "A big bad Death Eater like you, scared of a girl? What would your pals say if they saw you now?"
A thud behind her.
She whipped around, unable to suppress a gasp at his sudden appearance.
"Only a fool would not be scared of you, Granger," Lucius said, wearing a cool smirk. "You are a very clever witch. Although," he said, taking a step forward - and Hermione took a tiny step back - "I did manage to overpower you last time."
His eyes flickered to her chest. It was as if he could hear her heart beating.
His scent was almost overwhelming enough to distract her from her plan, but she forced herself to focus.
She noticed he was not holding a wand. "Incarcerous!"
Ropes wrapped around him, tying his arms to his torso and binding his legs together. If he was surprised he did not show it. It was as if he had been expecting her to attack him and had been counting on it, looking forward to it. He smiled at her as though it were he who was victorious instead.
"What are you going to do with me now, hm?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
She swallowed. She hadn't expect it to be so easy. "Interrogate you."
"Oh," he said. "Well, then. By all means…"
Hermione huffed. She didn't like his confidence, it was not part of her plan. He was supposed to be afraid and intimidated, caught in his wrongdoing. Perhaps begging her for leniency. Which she would not give, of course.
Pursing her lips against the extreme indignance rising up in her, she flicked her wand and Lucius went soaring toward a wing-backed chair. With an oof, he plopped down into it, still tied up.
"Don't think I won't be hard on you," she declared, like this was something she should mentally prepare him for.
"I don't doubt it," he said. "Do your worst, Granger."
"Oh you insufferable..." She couldn't stand looking at his smug face. At his cocky smirk. Her hate and anger rose up in her chest until they propelled her forward and she was suddenly right in front of him, right arm raised. And she slapped him.
It was a hard slap, right across the cheek, and it stung her hand. The color seeped into his skin.
His eyes flashed something, though it might have been the light. "Did that feel good for you?" he asked, staring from underneath his lashes.
Her breath hitched in her throat. It had felt surprisingly good, like she had needed to do that for longer than she had known. A surge of power consumed her, made her wet, and before she knew it she was grabbing his shirt collar in a tight fist. She pulled, forcing him to raise his head and look her fully in the face.
"You're not the one in charge now," she said in a low voice. It felt very good. "You're going to tell me what I want to know. Understand?"
If she had been expecting him to nod obediently, she was disappointed. Instead, his lips stretched into a feral grin, exposing white teeth.
With both hands now, she grabbed his shirt and shook him once roughly. "Do you understand?" she repeated in a fierce hiss.
"You're going to have to do better than that."
She slapped him again across the same place, her stomach a mixture of revulsion and that thrilling spike of power. The sharp sound of skin on skin seemed to echo across the dusty library.
With a quick swish of her wand, she made the ropes embracing him twist around the chair and bind him effectively in place, lest he get any ideas about moving.
"You're the one at my mercy now, Malfoy!" She got right in his face, no longer feeling like the scared little girl from Hogwarts, the one he looked down upon in snobbery. She felt bigger and better, and the sensation was intoxicating. "How does it feel?" she asked. "You're no longer in charge here, I am. Now I've got you. So you're going to tell me everything about Edmond Dungby's murder, how you did it, why you did it… And then I'm going to haul your arse to Azkaban. And this time no one's going to speak at your trial."
It would have been an impressive speech, if his grin had faltered even a fraction.
"I'll tell you all about Dungby," he said. "I have no problem with that."
She wanted to throttle him. "Then why have you been running from the Aurors?!"
"Because the Ministry doesn't seem to be my friend anymore."
"You're fucking right it's not!" An indignant huff escaped her. "What did you expect, Lucius? That after you helped Voldemort come to power, everyone would be forgiving because you have a bit of money to throw around? You're pathetic."
"It's rather more than a bit of money," he corrected, as if that was the point that mattered at all.
Hermione scowled at him. "You disgust me."
He grinned again.
"You do!" she shouted, though whether she was trying to convince him or herself she didn't know anymore. She raised her wand again. "Tell me about Dungby." He leaned back in the chair. "Now!"
"He was a thief," Lucius said lightly. "I entrusted him with one of my accounts. I was wrong to do so. Luckily, he wasn't a very smart man and I managed to extract the whereabouts of my gold from him easily. I, too, rather enjoy interrogation, Granger."
"He was stealing from you?"
Lucius nodded. "I asked him to manage some money for me, but he helped himself to it instead. As if his fee wasn't enough… He probably thought he could take advantage of me now that I'm-" He faltered for the first time. "Now that my name has a different meaning for people."
"Being an ex-Death Eater seems to dampen people's opinion of you, yes. I can't say I feel badly."
"And I can't say I'm surprised. But I don't want your pity, Granger."
"Did you ever get your gold back?"
"Yes. It took some effort, but I have it now. Not at Gringott's, so don't go looking there. I don't want the Ministry able to get its hands on it."
"And you killed him anyway?"
He stared at her, a small smile on his lips.
She noticed he wasn't denying her accusation.
"I was angry," he said finally.
She scoffed, rolling her eyes.
"It was an accident."
"I highly doubt that, but if that's your argument for a case in court, I suggest you come up with a better story."
"This isn't going to court, Granger."
"Oh?" She raised her eyebrows. Leaning forward, she pressed the tip of her wand underneath his chin. "Have you forgotten that I'm still in charge here?"
"How could I forget?"
"It seems you have."
"Maybe you should remind me."
Her body took over, and before she knew how it happened she was gripping him by the neck, the way he had held her the other night when she was in his position. They were a mirror image now, Lucius tied down while Hermione lorded over him. She squeezed his throat, a sick curiosity overtaking her; was he able to draw breath? How hard did she have to squeeze before he struggled? He made a noise in his throat halfway between a sharp intake of breath and a choke. It filled her with a maddening rush.
She brought her knee up, it came naturally to her then, and she pressed it between his thighs until he whimpered from the pain in his groin. Her knee jabbed into the hardening flesh underneath his trousers, her hand closed on his throat, and she had never felt more wet in her life. She watched in a kind of heady lusty amazement as his cheeks became flushed and his nostrils flared. She did that to him. And for the first time, he was frowning.
Then she leaned in and kissed him full on the mouth.
His lips were rough, but she liked them, and she dug her nails into his skin one more time, relishing the noise he made, before releasing his throat.
The moment she let go, he leaned into her and kissed her back fiercely, sucking on her lips until she had to follow him onto the chair, getting right in his lap. Her knee slipped from his groin as she settled on top of both his thighs. Cupping his cheeks, she devoured him, tilting his head back so that she could kiss him as deeply as she wanted.
When he tried to pull his head to the side, she grabbed his hair and held him in place, forcing him to comply with her will. She didn't care if his tongue stopped meeting hers, she just wanted him to know she owned him in that moment. She was someone different, someone he could never hope to intimidate.
Pulling away but maintaining the fist in his hair, forcing his head to the side and exposing the long line of his neck, she brought her hand down his chest, exploring the feel of his body. When she reached his trousers, she grabbed his groin, surprising him. He drew a hissing breath as he stared at her with that same flash of something in his eyes… His pupils were dilated, that was what it was, surely nothing else. He was turned on. But she didn't need his eyes to tell her that when his cock, straining against his trousers, betrayed his arousal much more clearly.
She thought back to the conversation she'd had with Harry and Ron in their small sitting room, and she swallowed.
"How did you kill Dungby?" she asked.
Lucius bared his teeth, but this time it wasn't a grin, though it was just as feral as any he had shown.
Hermione's voice was weak, only a whisper, like she didn't want what she was asking next to be true. "Did you bite him, Lucius?"
Again, he remained silent, and she was so frustrated that she actually made a noise reminiscent of a growl. She realized she was squeezing his cock, stroking it, manipulating it. She wanted to force him to breathe hard, to groan audibly. It was an addictive game and the thrill of winning went straight through her, resting between her legs and urging her for more.
His chest rose and fell visibly; he was breathing hard as he glared at her. But still he said nothing. She dug her fingernails into the fabric of his trousers, eliciting only a quick wince, and his cock grew harder.
She wasn't going to give him the satisfaction.
In a fluid motion, she slid off his lap, taking her hands with her. The whiny groan that came from his throat, like a dog about to bite, left her immensely pleased with herself.
"Since you're not going to tell me what really happened," she said, her heart beginning to slow down, "we will see how your story changes once we get to the Ministry."
His eyes followed her as she turned her back to him; she could feel his stare piercing her as she left him. She needed air, and the musty library, while massive, suddenly lacked an ounce of oxygen. The hallway seemed instantly cooler, and as she breathed in, she seemed to be breathing back her senses as well.
What the hell had come over her? There was nothing about what she had done that was professional. She wondered if he would tell anyone, which she promptly decided he would; he would do anything to earn himself leniency. And would she deny she had just assaulted him? Would she let everyone believe he was lying and that she was an innocent little doe, just to save her own skin from the backlash her actions in there would receive?
Still, she didn't think she would do anything differently if she could do it again. That same thing that pulled her toward him - that unknown force drawing her to Lucius every day she was on this case - wouldn't let her regret touching him. And kissing him.
Pulling out her wand and trying to compose herself, she cast a Patronus. The silver otter jumped around twice before vanishing, on its way to Harry. He would be here in a moment, and she needed to be calm when he arrived. Though she was still twitchy as she anticipated his Apparition.
Pop. "Hermione?" He wore his Auror robes and had his wand at the ready.
"Harry! That was quick, thank goodness." She indicated the library door. "He's in there. I think the two of us can bring him in." She had been right to ask Harry to stand by as reinforcement. She didn't want to face Lucius alone now, not when a large part of her wanted to keep him here and continue what she'd started. It was a dangerous slope she was slipping down… She didn't even trust herself anymore.
"Hermione?" Harry came back out into the hallway. "Are you sure you're all right? What happened here?"
She licked her lips, trying to keep from going pink. "Let's not talk about it."
"We have to talk about it… I thought you were going to call me when you caught Lucius."
Hermione frowned. "Of course I did, he's right there."
Harry was shaking his head.
Panic spiked in her chest and she lightly pushed Harry aside as she ran into the library. "What…" She saw the chair. The ropes were there too, hanging off the arms and legs.
But there was no man in the seat.
There was no Lucius Malfoy.
There was no consoling her after that. Harry tried to tell her it wasn't her fault, that he probably found some way to get away, but Hermione couldn't stop being angry at herself. It didn't help that the next night, a strange owl came to her window carrying a short note.
Did you really think I was not strong enough to break free of those pathetic bonds?
You are a clever witch, Granger, but you underestimate me. Especially since you suspect what I am.
Better luck next time.
With a scream of such frustration, Harry and Ron both jumped, she crumpled the parchment in her fist before tearing it apart into little pieces.
"We'll get him next time," Harry said.
"Yeah, the next time when you catch him. Obviously you would never let him get away like that!"
Ron was looking at Harry as if trying to tell him to back off, she was in one of her crazy moods, but Harry ignored him.
"That's not what I meant," he insisted.
"But it's true," she snapped, rounding on him fiercely. She didn't care if she was acting crazy and scary. She was angry. More than angry. It was like a fury that reached down into her soul and made her want to slam Lucius Malfoy's head against a brick wall. She wanted to quit the Aurors, give up and admit she was no good at it. But she had never given up on anything in her life and the idea made her sick. "You would have known not to take your eyes off him," she told Harry, her voice sounding much too helpless and weak. Too much a reflection of how she felt.
She stormed into her room before they could try and console her any more, slamming her door.
She ripped off her clothes and jumped naked into bed, finding the coverlet in the darkness and pulling it up over her. With a roughness she didn't typically use on herself, she reached one hand down and rubbed her clit until she felt something other than this vexed disappointment. But her anger was so strong, it made her attempts fruitless, and she wasn't able to even get wet enough to continue.
Feeling more frustrated now than ever, she turned over and buried her face in her pillow, her hands balled up into fists beside her, and shut her eyes tightly.
It was a wet feeling, alternating between warm and cool. Hermione spread her legs, allowing the feeling to grow. There was a warm rush of air, and she realized there was a mouth on her clit, a tongue licking and lips sucking and kissing. The sound of someone else drawing breath before continuing to lick up her inner lips, up and around them, over her clit. He sucked on her clit for a long time, playing with it with his lips and flicking his tongue against it. She didn't even realize her eyes were closed until she gyrated her hips up and heard him grunt.
She felt a spike of panic as she wondered for a moment where she was, orienting herself to her surroundings. She was in her bedroom, she remembered going to bed the night before in her rage. Yet she wasn't panicking about Lucius being here. She somehow knew it was him even before she'd fully awoken. She knew his scent now. And more than that, she knew his presence, even though she had no idea how that was possible.
As her eyes adjusted to the light, she could make out his head between her thighs, and she tried to squeeze her legs together. He raised his head an inch, looking up at her with his mouth still on her. His eyes practically glowed.
He grabbed her firmly, pulling her toward him, and dove in with purpose. Her hips were lifted off the mattress, cradled in his hands as he fucked her with his tongue. Her own harsh breathing was all she could hear for a while until there was a loud slurping, and she threw her head back with a soft moan. It was so obscene, it brought her that much closer… He sucked on her inner lips, lapped at her wetness, eating her out so voraciously it was like he was starved.
When she thought she was about to come, his fingers suddenly replaced his mouth. He rubbed circles over her clit with his thumb, and she gasped and whined. She wanted him to stick his fingers deep inside her and fuck her hard. She thought maybe she asked for it, but it had just been a low groan. She pushed her groin toward him, demanding it of him.
Lucius didn't start with a single finger, he shoved two in at once, and she cried out. It was beautiful pleasure. He roughly fucked her with his hand, two fingers up her pussy and his thumb playing with her clit, until she felt her muscles reach their tipping point. They clenched together over his fingers, and he grunted deep in his throat. She gasped for breath as her muscles clenched over and over again, her orgasm coming in strong waves. Her clit was overly sensitive and the rubbing became painful for a few moments, but he kept at it until a new wave of pleasure reached her and she made a sharp noise in her throat. She closed her eyes, moved her hips rapidly against his palm, unable to think about anything but the glorious feel of his skin on her pussy. She realized then how much noise she was making.
Then she bit her tongue hard to stop herself from screaming as a sharp pain bloomed on her inner thigh, and she opened her eyes to look down. He had bit her, his eyes flashing in the dark, his teeth bared.
With her orgasm dissipating, she slumped down into the bed. Her heart was pounding so hard and fast, it was battling to leave her chest.
Lucius climbed up her body and she welcomed his weight on top of her, as well as the enveloping nature of his scent washing over her. His lips were wet as they pressed into her ear.
"You're mine now," he whispered gruffly. But his hand was soothing as he stroked her side. Tucked up in his arms, she drifted back to sleep.
The suspicion that it was nothing more than a wet dream left her feeling strangely depressed in the morning. Even the bleary sun peeking through her curtains felt too harsh to her eyes. She wished it was still night, when it was still somehow okay for Lucius to be in her bed. Licking her lips, she wondered if his scent was on the sheets. But looking down at the bedsheet tangled around her legs, she knew it had truly been a dream. He couldn't have been here without someone else hearing, someone noticing him come in. It was impossible, a daft wish of a daft girl.
She was sticky. So she had come in her sleep dreaming of Lucius Malfoy. It was pathetic, especially since she still felt longing somewhere deep in her stomach.
There was nothing to do but to shower and hope that today at work she could find another lead. The boys were not up yet, so the bathroom was all hers. She let the water run until warm before stepping into the shower.
She hissed at the sting that bloomed on her inner thigh as the water raked over her. It wasn't very hot but it burned her as if she had an open wound.
Lifting one leg onto the rim of the tub, she looked down and her mouth fell open. She stared for a few moments, and even wondered if she was still asleep. But there they were, bite marks, two neat little pricks in the fleshy part of her inner thigh. The wounds were not ugly, just fresh, and red-rimmed. Her skin was pink and raw.
She remembered what Lucius had whispered in her ear before she'd fallen asleep.
"You're mine now."
So it had been real.
And Hermione found herself feeling very much okay. More than that, she was beginning to feel the first prickles of excitement start up inside her. She wondered if she should Apparate straight to St Mungo's or if it was too late for her. She wondered if a bite on the thigh would even count. She wondered how Lucius had gotten in and out without being heard, how no one had heard her moans of pleasure in the night. She wondered when Lucius would contact her again, or if he would make her chase him, and her heart fluttered with the challenge.
All those questions didn't really matter, though, when she thought about what he'd said.
A smile tugged her lips as she realized, she had been his for much longer than he knew.