Harry Potter and all of its settings and characters belong to JK Rowling.

Goodness it's been an incredibly long time. I thought I was out for sure but then recently this scene appeared and would not stop circling my brain. I don't know exactly where I'm going with this but as with all my stories I promise a happy ending.

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Hermione Granger was lost in thought. As she made her rounds of the castle checking for students out of bed her mind was occupied with quite a number of things. Some were pleasant, some not so much, but none had anything whatsoever to do with her current task. If her mind had been actively engaged in her immediate surroundings it would not have been possible for the dark figures concealing themselves in the shadows of the empty corridor to overtake her. No matter that there were four of them. As it was, she didn't even realize she was in trouble until her wand was already flying from her grasp.

Her mind snapped quickly into focus as she watched it sail into the hand of one Theodore Nott. Movement caught her eye and she turned to find herself surrounded at all four corners by Slytherins. Crabbe, Goyle, and Zabbini all stood with nearly identical looks of smug anticipation on their faces.

She tamped down the tendril of dread that tried to unfurl in her stomach and glared at Nott.

"Attacking the Head Girl in the corridors is not going to go over well. As it stands you've done nothing but break curfew and annoy me. Hand over my wand and get back to your dorms before you do something stupid."

"You hear that, lads?" Nott sneered as he tucked her wand into his robes, "The mudblood thinks she can order us about."

She could tell from the slight slurring of his words that he'd been drinking and the dread started to seep past her restraints. Being alone in the dungeons with hostile Slytherins was one thing, being alone in the dungeons with hostile Slytherins who were riding a high of drunken bravado was an entirely different matter.

"I really don't think you're in any position to be giving orders," he continued, his voice edged with menace, "In fact, the only orders that will be followed tonight are mine." He nodded over her shoulder and she was suddenly grabbed roughly from behind. Arms that felt like steel bands pinned her arms to her sides and hauled her up onto her toes.

Her self defense tactics were instinctive and her attacker barely had time to take a breath before she slammed the back of her heel into his knee and then went limp in his arms. He dropped her with a howl of pain and she quickly leaped to her feet and ran. She made it a total of three steps before her arm was wrenched backward and her body took a sharp turn, slamming her face first into the stone wall. Pain exploded across her cheek and she tasted blood as she rebounded off the wall and fell in a crumpled heap on the floor. She heard snickering above her and she scrambled away, trying to get her feet under her.

They were suddenly everywhere, arms snaking around her middle, fingers digging into her hair and yanking her up, hands shackling her wrists to keep her from striking out. Nott wrapped one hand around her neck and tilted her face up to his. The look he gave her sent an icy ball of fear shooting through her chest.

"Tonight you're going to learn your place, Mudblood."

Anger pulsed hot and mixed with pride to melt her fear. They were going to hurt her whether she cowered and begged or spit and fought so she'd be damned if she let them see her shaking. Her glare was Nott's only warning before she slammed her forehead into his face. She felt a surge of satisfaction as he jumped back with a yelp and blood started running from his clearly broken nose. Ignoring the hands that bit painfully into her skin, she laughed derisively.

"My place is so far above your head you'd need a ladder to kiss my ass, Nott."

Rage distorted his features and she had an instant to brace herself before the back of his hand connected with her cheek and her head whipped to the side. Little spots of light danced in front of her eyes and she struggled to clear her vision.

"Your place is on your knees putting that mouth of yours to good use," he snarled as he regained his grip on her neck, "but I think I'll take some time to fuck the bite out of you first."

"No," an icy voice came from the darkness and she felt all four of her attackers go still, "I really don't think you will."

Draco Malfoy emerged from the shadows and Nott was suddenly flying away from her. Hermione had just enough time to see his look of shock before he slammed into the wall. A small gasp of pain escaped her as she fell to the floor and it took her a moment to realize it was because the hands holding her up were gone. She looked around and saw that Crabbe, Goyle, and Zabbini were all slumped awkwardly against the opposite wall. Menace seemed to be seeping from Malfoy's pores and the group surrounding her had suddenly gone from terrifying to terrified. Hermione was too shocked to do anything but sit on the floor and stare.

"Did I not make myself perfectly clear on this matter?" The steel threaded through Malfoy's voice highlighted the danger lurking under the surface of that question. "I have claimed Granger as my reward for my marking ceremony. I will teach her her place. I will bend her to my will until she acknowledges me as her master. She is mine." The growl that accompanied that last word broke through her shock and had her scrambling backward as she realized she was still very much in danger. She jumped to her feet and a wave of dizziness sent her straight back down. She braced herself for more pain as the ground rushed up to meet her but it was pain that never came. A cushioning charm broke her fall and eased her softy to the floor. She shook her addled head, fighting to stay conscious, and looked for the source of the charm. None of the Slytherins seemed to be paying her any attention at all but she saw that Malfoy's wand was pointed casually in her direction. He didn't take his eyes off of her attackers as he continued his speech.

"Do you need a reminder of what I do to people who touch what is mine?" He raised his hand and Nott rose from the floor, scratching at an invisible force that was wrapped around his neck. Malfoy's hand clenched and Nott's face turned first red, then purple as he clearly fought for breath. It wasn't until his struggles started to slow that he fell back to the ground with a sickening crunch. Malfoy glared at the trembling pile that was Theodore Nott before turning his attention to the other three.

"Get him out of my sight before I remember that your hands were also quite full of what is mine." Crabbe and Goyle immediately rushed to obey, each grabbing one arm of their fallen accomplice and helping him hobble down the hallway. Zabbini, who she could now see was the one she'd gotten with her kick, limped along behind them.

As soon as they were out of sight Malfoy turned his gaze to her and she froze in the instinctual reaction of prey in the presence of a predator.

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Draco Malfoy had never felt anything like the murderous rage that overtook him when he rounded the corner and saw Hermione with her face bruised, bloody, and full of fear. When Nott wrapped his hand around her throat and told her she needed to learn her place he thought the violence of it would explode from his chest. Everything in him focused to one single purpose. They were all going to die.

He saw the change come over her face and fire spit from her eyes a split second before she slammed her head into Nott's nose.

"My place is so far above your head you'd need a ladder to kiss my ass, Nott."

This magnificently Gryffindor show of courage managed two things that pleased him. One, it broke Nott's nose, and two, it showed him that she was all right. Some semblance of rational thought made its way through the urge to dismember her attackers and allowed him to proceed with logic. Killing them was still definitely part of the plan, but it would have to wait for a more appropriate time. One that wouldn't jeopardize the cover he'd spent the last four years of his life building. For now he would have to be satisfied with reminding them, painfully, of his claim. For once in his life he was happy for his family's reputation, as it allowed him to protect her. Malfoys did not share.

He started towards them just in time to see Nott strike her and the rage came flooding back, drowning out logic and planning and leaving nothing but the need to end them.

"Your place is on your knees putting that mouth of yours to good use, but I think I'll take some time to fuck the bite out of you first."

Now.

"No, I really don't think you will." He was surprised he could even speak around the lump of hatred burning in his throat. He let his magic burst from him and sent it seeking those who had dared to harm her. They were flung against the walls with a satisfying crunch and he lifted his wand to pull them back so he could do it again, and again until their blood stained the walls and their wretched souls departed this world.

He went still at the small sound of pain that came from Hermione as she fell to the ground.

Realizing that his lack of control had caused her more pain was enough to clear the red haze of bloodlust clouding his brain and allow him to think again.

He would not murder these fools in front of her.

He would stick to the plan.

"Did I not make myself perfectly clear on this matter?" He pushed menace into his voice and let them see the rage still pulsing through him. "I have claimed Granger as my reward for my marking ceremony. I will teach her her place. I will bend her to my will until she acknowledges me as her master. She is mine."

He saw Hermione scramble away from him out of the corner of his eye and forced himself not to react. He did not look at her but when she failed in her attempt to gain her feet he silently sent a cushioning charm to break her fall. Never again would he fail to protect her. Even if doing so made her see him as the monster.

"Do you need a reminder of what I do to people who touch what is mine?" He thought of Nott's hand around her neck and he sent out his magic to retaliate. It was so tempting to just keep squeezing until the life drained out of him but he forced himself to let go and Nott dropped to the ground in a heap. The terror he saw in the eyes of Crabbe, Goyle, and Zabbini assured him that no one would ever again lay a finger on the girl in front of them.

"Get him out of my sight before I remember that your hands were also quite full of what is mine."

As they scrambled to obey he forced himself to keep his gaze away from Hermione until they were out of sight. When he finally turned to look at her he saw her go still, as if expecting him to pounce. An internal debate was raging in him. He knew what he should do. What he should do is heal her, Obliviate her and send her back to her room. It was the only way to proceed with his cover in tact and the lot of them not being hauled off to Azkaban.

What he wanted to do was take away the fear in her eyes.

He cursed under his breath and started towards her.

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