Hello, I'm back! I've had a very short break from writing but then the ideas bug bit me and I wanted to write this story. It takes place after the war and will be a bit shorter than my other two stories – Unexpected and Forget Me – but hopefully just as fun.

It takes place after the books (epilogue ignored obviously) and as always, JKR is the owner of a brilliant mind and therefore these compelling characters.


1st May, 1998 – The Battle of Hogwarts

Hogwarts castle had not expected to be awoken after so long lying dormant, but when it did, it was with a slow, almost weary thrumming of energy. It observed the chaos that trickled down every corridor and chamber of its sprawling form and growled with a new anger it hadn't felt in over a century. The flames of protective fury smouldered until the castle felt a surge as it rose into action.

The Death Eaters had attacked mercilessly and the battle was underway. Fragments of stone rained down on those unfortunate enough to be trapped inside its cloistered rooms. And all around spells were being fired like the bursting of brightly coloured festival fireworks.

Hogwarts roared to life with a vengeance that was unparalleled. Stone walls became an impenetrable shield that rose up in protection of its students. Fire flared up from every grate and suits of armour clattered to attention.

And in the depths of the castle's belly, buried in the labyrinthine piles of junk in the Room of Requirement, Hogwarts felt something else stirring. The princess of Gryffindor had returned, and she was in trouble.

Hermione felt her ankle convulse and crumple beneath her. She had been trailing the boys by only a few metres as they sprinted from the flames that had engulfed the Room of Requirement. Crabbe had been foolish and deranged enough to believe that he could control the blaze, but dark magic had a mind of its own. So they had run. Hermione certainly hadn't expected to twist her foot on something and fall to the floor with a sickening smack. Harry and Ron clearly hadn't seen or heard it happen either as they disappeared around a corner and away from her. They were all too busy trying to run for their lives to notice.

She whimpered and clutched at her foot. Immediately, she tried to stand and keep going but the leg just collapsed under her again. Hermione grappled frantically for her wand to cast a healing charm, but before she could get a grip on it, a long winding flame whipped around the corner of a stack of furniture and scorched her. She snapped her hand away, toppling onto her back and clenching her eyes shut in fear of the searing explosion.

This was it, she thought. She was done for. After everything they had been through, she was going to be burned to death because of Vincent bloody Crabbe. Just when they were so close to getting rid of all the horcruxes and finally defeating Voldemort. And she was alone. Her heart pounded as she crawled away from the blaze, her wand lying uselessly a couple of feet away. At least with Fiendfyre it might be quick, she hoped. It wasn't likely any witch or wizard could survive the sinister flames for long.

Hermione made one last desperate reach for her wand just as the fire tore through the pile of couches and desks and launched itself at her. Her fingers managed to wrap around the length of wood, but it was surely too late. Somewhere vaguely in the distance she could hear the two boys yelling her name frantically. Time seemed to slow painfully, as if drawing out the torturous moment of her death to mock and humiliate her even further.

But then a pale hand grasped her arm, just as the terrified ache in her chest was blossoming into a sharp pain. The person wrenched her away from her flames as if she weighed nothing. She blinked in confusion as she was hoisted up onto the person's back as he practically flew up another pile of furniture. He was grasping at the furniture desperately, using it to claw his way higher and higher. The room spun wildly below. At first all she could focus on was an earthy masculine scent of sweat mixed with some kind of rich, dark cologne. But Hermione finally managed to suck in a deep breath of air and focus her bleary gaze on who had saved her from such an undignified, horrific death.

There was no mistaking that blond hair. It was Draco Malfoy.

Hermione gasped audibly. But she held on tighter to his shoulders as if she could draw herself into him for protection. The flames flared up higher. He managed to reach the top of the tall pile of furniture just in time and pulled her up behind her. They both collapsed onto the shaky table top in a heap of trembling limbs and panting breaths. Malfoy was clearly exhausted from heaving her up there, and Hermione was still struggling to recover for her close brush with death and the pain radiating from her rapidly swelling ankle.

"Malfoy-" she stammered hoarsely, choking on the fumes that rose and swirled thickly around them. She pushed herself up onto her elbows to stare at him in disbelief. Her mind was spinning with the implications of what had just happened. He had saved her life. She shook her head in bewilderment, grabbing onto his wrist and squeezing until he met her eye. He finally jerked his head up to return her gaze. He looked even more stunned than her if that was possible. His steely grey eyes were more alive than she had ever seen them. They were swimming with confusion and relief and anger and terror. They darted between hers quickly before sweeping down over her body as if he was reassuring himself that she was unharmed. She swallowed.

"Malfoy-" she repeated, not sure what she could say in response to his unexpected actions. But any words of gratitude or inquiry would have to wait. The flames were licking higher and higher, nearly reaching out to grope at their toes as they clung to the top level of their tower with white knuckles. The fire was actually roaring now, so loud she wasn't even sure if he had heard her say his name. They just continued to stare at each other in horror, and she wondered whether this would be her real last moment alive. Had she really been saved by him just to perish moments later as the inferno engulfed them both? But at least she wasn't alone, she thought with grim satisfaction. Even if it was Malfoy, of all people, she was glad she had someone by her side. Her grip on his wrist tightened, and he turned his hand around unconsciously to clasp hers fiercely in return, although even as he did he looked faintly repelled by the contact.

Hermione could hear her name being screamed from a distance, but as the yelling got closer and closer she could no longer ignore it. She tore her eyes away from Malfoy's to watch as Harry and Ron swept towards them on two battered old broomsticks. Her gut swooped with relief.

"WE'RE HERE!" she shouted out as loud as she could, before inhaling a lungful of smoke and descending into a fit of coughing. The ash burned her throat and she flinched in pain. Her body doubled over as she tried to retch and breathe in. Her eyes watered, blurring her vision. She felt Malfoy wrap a shaky arm around her shoulder and haul her up next to him as he rose carefully to his feet. They were both all too aware of how fragile their tower of furniture was becoming as the flames below consumed it. Finally she had coughed away the worst of the smoke, and lifted her head to look around the room. Malfoy kept his arm around her securely as they steadied each other and found their balance together.

"HURRY!" she yelled as an ominous groaning sounded from their table. Malfoy's grip on her was like a vice, but strangely she felt comforted by it, not disgusted. She really hated broomsticks, her panicked mind reminded her as the boys zoomed in close to them. But she wasn't left with much choice. Before she could plan a clumsy, possibly fatal jump over to where Ron was waiting for her, she felt Malfoy's hands tightening. He grabbed her as if she weighed no more than a quill and tossed her with all his might and accuracy towards the hovering broom. She squealed loudly but managed to seize onto Ron's shoulders and then they were off. Ron certainly didn't waste any time. They were sprinting towards the exit with the hot smoky air whipping their faces before she could even regain her equilibrium.

Hermione felt her head dart back against her will to stare behind them. Her heart thudded as her eyes tried to locate Malfoy. She finally spotted his blond hair as he leapt much more gracefully onto the back of Harry's broom and her friend veered around the follow them. She let out a breath of relief. It was still a close one in the end. The flames pursued them relentlessly, and it was only the door slamming closed that saved them as they all tumbled out onto the floor in a pile of charcoaled limbs and grunts.

Back on solid ground and feeling more confident, Hermione felt her wand fly into her hand as she got to work, her manner brusque and efficient. She healed her broken ankle with an impatient flick before turning to the three boys. They were panting and retching as they regained their breath. She had cleared her lungs with a hasty charm and gave each of them the same treatment.

"Does anyone have any serious burns?" she asked in a soft, urgent voice.

Harry and Ron both shook their heads, but Malfoy was just staring at her like she'd grown an extra head or sprouted antlers. His eyes widened further and his expression turned to one of stunned horror. She found herself trapped in his gaze as her heart thudded to life against her ribs again after their mad dash from the flames when it had surely almost stopped beating altogether. His normally cold gaze was almost feverish, she realised. His blond hair was ruffled and flopping wildly over his forehead and his clothes were in disarray. She had never seen him so untidy. There was a blackened smudge across one cheek and a dripping cut on the other. But her focus was almost entirely on his eyes. The unexpectedly soulful grey eyes with that mad glint smouldering deep within them.

"Oh shit," he whispered hoarsely, almost involuntarily as if he hadn't meant to say anything.

"Malfoy?" she asked, her brow quirking up in confusion at his reaction.

"Shit, shit, shit" he cursed again, and this time he scrambled backwards to put space between them until he was pressed against the wall. Through all this their gazes never wavered. He continued to stare at her and she at him, though his expression grew more and more sickened with every moment. His lip was curling up in distaste, or maybe it was fear. She wasn't sure.

Before she could say anything else, he seemed to blink and pull himself together. Without any warning, Malfoy shot to his feet awkwardly, stumbling over himself in his hurry. He took one last pained look at her and bolted, running down the corridor, around a corner and out of sight.

"What the bloody hell was that all about? Evil git." Ron snorted, shaking his head in bewilderment. Harry looked too dazed and glassy eyed to have even noticed. She suspected he was caught up in another trance as he shared Voldemort's mind. Hermione blinked and shrugged weakly in confusion. He had saved her life. Malfoy had saved her life. She still couldn't believe it had really happened. And neither could he, it seemed. He had looked shocked, as if he had never intended to save her at all. Maybe he had just acted on instinct in the heat of the moment. The look of repulsion he had just given her made it clear he wasn't suffering from some altruistic or heroic change of personality. He seemed appalled at his own behaviour.

Hermione shook her head numbly. There was no time to think about it. They needed to keep going, and from the way Harry was quivering and cradling his scar, she knew they wouldn't be resting for long. She turned back to Ron with a whimsical little smile and another shrug of her shoulders as they both turned their attention back to Harry. But in some distant part of her mind, buried deep in the very core of her magic, she became vaguely aware of a connection forming. It was like a thread tugging at her magic and beckoning her towards something or someone. It wasn't painful or uncomfortable, just a tingling presence at the edge of her consciousness. Hermione didn't know much about this particular area of magic, or how they were even really created, but she was pretty sure that she had just been bound to a Life Debt.


Chapter One

October 14th, 1998

Hermione gazed around fondly at the dusty walls of Number 12 Grimmauld Place. The smell of rotting carpets and unsuccessful cleaning charms was so familiar to her now that she couldn't help the smile that tugged at her lips. It was good to be home, she thought with a wistful smile. Her fingers stroked lovingly across some of the old book titles that lined the walls of the Black family library. They were mostly dark magic texts, but she had come to know them well during their stay here while they were hunting for horcruxes. She had devoured these books, each and every one of them, in her pursuit for information that would shed some light on how to find and destroy the pieces of Voldemort's soul.

The creaky fifth stair groaning under someone's weight was all the warning she got before Harry peeked his head into the room.

"Hey, settled in yet?"

"Almost," she smiled back.

"I see you made yourself at home in the library already…" he commented with a teasing lilt to his voice. Hermione chuckled and threw her arm around his shoulder as he came to stand next to her. He seemed so happy. They'd all had their problems after the battle, of course, but Harry was coping surprisingly well. Even if he did loathe the constant limelight. He couldn't go anywhere without being mobbed by admirers. Eventually he had taken up residence in his godfather's old house just because of the myriad protection spells cloaking its whereabouts. He certainly deserved the privacy. And Ginny visited almost every day even if Molly wouldn't let her stay over yet. Speaking of which…

"Is Ginny here?" Hermione asked curiously, since the house seemed suspiciously silent. Harry rubbed the back of his neck.

"Nah, she's stuck under Molly-patrol," he said wryly, "She'll be coming over after she's finished her chores at the Burrow."

Hermione laughed and shook her head. She was looking forward to seeing the youngest Weasley girl who had become her close friend over the years, but it was still nice to catch up quietly with Harry first.

"And Ron?" she enquired in an overly casual voice, trying not to make eye contact with her friend.

"He's working at Hogwarts today."

Hermione winced a bit.

"I'm sorry I didn't stay around long enough to help-" she began, but Harry interrupted.

"It's fine, Hermione, no one blames you. And it's dreadfully boring anyway. McGonagall either puts you on the Rebuilding team, which is just repairing and cleaning big piles of stone or vanishing blood or fixing windows… or if you're really lucky you get stationed in the Hospital Wing helping the survivors."

"How is everyone?" she asked in a shaky voice, knowing that a lot of innocent people were hurt very badly.

"Pomfrey has turned that place into a well-oiled machine. It's part hospital and part therapy centre really. Everyone is receiving the best care she can provide. Ron has been helping out there a lot actually."

"I know," she said quietly, falling silent as they both thought about all the people who had been hurt or maimed in that battle. It had scarred a lot of lives. She felt a swelling of pride and affection for Ron for giving up so much of his time to help them when his family were still dealing with their own grief over Fred's death. She knew George was one of those survivors still in the hospital wing there. He had yet to recover from the death of his twin.

"Let's stop brooding, please," Harry begged with a forced smile as he linked their arms together, "It's so good to see you again and I don't want to spoil it."

Hermione gave him a slightly watery smile.

"I missed you too, Harry," she murmured, leaning into a hug as Harry wrapped his arms around her.

Eventually they both made their way downstairs to the surprisingly clean kitchen. It seemed Kreacher was still popping by occasionally to make Harry's home comfortable. The scruffy haired boy busied himself in the kitchen preparing tea for them both, and Hermione noticed that he remembered exactly how she liked it. She accepted the mug gratefully and sipped at it as they settled down at the table together.

"So…" Harry began with an awkward smile, "Spill. Tell me everything. I got your letters but you were a bit vague-"

"I know. I didn't have a lot of time for writing and I also didn't want to get my hopes up."

Hermione sighed, grimacing and settling back into her chair to begin her story. She had spent the last four months in Australia restoring her parents' memories, and she wasn't sure how to recap all that time in a brief summary for Harry. It had been an emotionally tiring experience, but ultimately a good one.

"Well as I told you in my letters, I eventually managed to find them; they were living and working in a community in the south of Sydney. Once I had reassured myself that they hadn't been damaged either physically or by my magic, I set about trying to reverse the charm. I integrated myself into their lives and kept working at it slowly while building their trust. But it took weeks. I always knew it would be hard but…" she took a sip of her tea and shrugged, "Anyway, it worked. They remembered everything they had lost, as well as all their new memories they had made in Sydney."

Harry whistled softly.

"That's pretty impressive magic, Hermione," he murmured, watching her closely as he drank his own tea.

"It was nothing really," she responded a bit self-consciously, squirming in her seat, "It was just a process of breaking down each barrier without damaging the mind's own psychological defences and then meticulously replanting the original memories."

"Yeh, nothing," Harry repeated sarcastically, chuckling. Hermione smiled sheepishly too.

"Well, as you can imagine they weren't too happy with me at first. It took a week just to get them to listen to me. I showed them some memories in the pensieve you loaned me – thank you, by the way – and finally they understood. They're still pretty annoyed with me, but they've accepted why I did it. I think partly they're just cross because I put myself in danger and took part in a whole bloody war without them really realising it. They wish they could have protected me."

"That seems fair enough. They love you."

"I know. Ever since I learned about my magic they've always been afraid of the fact that they can't defend me or shield me from danger."

Harry smiled widely, leaning forwards on his chair.

"But still, it sounds like everything went well in the end. Did you bring them back with you side-along or are they catching a plane?"

Hermione felt a little pang of sadness and looked down into the tealeaves swirling indolently to the surface of her mug.

"Neither actually. They…well, uh…once they could remember both their lives, they realised how happy they had been in Australia. They have a new dental practice there and even have a little house near the beach. It's quite beautiful, actually. Mum is in a cooking class and dad is the member of some fancy golf club."

She saw Harry frown and lean back.

"They've decided to stay there…?" he asked gently.

She sighed.

"Yeh. I'm happy for them. They seem to have a really good life there. I'm just going to miss them. It's so much harder to apparate long distances, so I won't see them as much. They tried to convince me to stay in Australia with them but…well, my whole life is here."

Harry smiled softly and reached over to squeeze her hand.

"At least they're safe. From what I've heard lately from Kingsley and the other aurors it sounds like you really did save their lives. A lot of parents of muggleborns were killed in that last year."

Hermione took a deep, shaky breath and nodded. She drained her tea at the same time as Harry and they relaxed a bit.

"So, now that you have returned to us finally, oh brainy princess of Gryffindor, what's your big plan?"

Hermione laughed and shrugged.

"I'm not entirely sure. I'll have to find an apartment soon…"

"You can stay here as long as you like! It'll be nice to have some company," Harry reassured her quickly.

"That sounds perfect, thank you," she replied gratefully, feeling one small weight lift off her shoulders, "Then I suppose I'll try help at Hogwarts until the school can reopen and I can take my NEWTs. I know you and Ron are keen to get straight to work and they said you don't need your exams, but I still think I'd like to do them, just for the satisfaction of finishing my schooling."

"We both figured that you would," Harry agreed with a nod.

"Am I that predictable?" she laughed.

"Sometimes," he gave her a wry, cheeky little smile.

"Well you can't blame me. I want to show everyone that I'm not just your muggleborn sidekick or a freak. I'm going to get a big heap of Outstandings in every subject and show them what I'm really capable of…"

Harry's eyes widened in surprise at her words.

"Wow," he muttered softly, "I've never heard you sound so…er…self-assured. You're going to take the wizarding world by storm, Hermione. You're everything the Death Eaters despised."

Hermione chuckled, feeling that familiar tickle at the back of her mind at the mention of the Death Eaters. She took a deep breath and then met Harry's eyes more seriously.

"Actually, Harry, there's something else I think I might do as well now that I'm back."

Harry raised his brows questioningly at her solemn demeanour. She squirmed self-consciously, tracing her fingers over the patterns in the wooden table top.

"I think I'm going to track down Malfoy. These last few months in Australia I've been thinking about it. About him. And I want to talk to him about what happened in the Room of Requirement."

Harry visibly swallowed and gave her a wide-eyed look.

"Uh…Hermione, he's not-"

Hermione frowned and interrupted him.

"Don't start Harry. I know you hate him, but Malfoy saved my life. I need to talk to him. I want to thank him."

Harry shook his head with a sheepish smile.

"No, it's not that. I mean, I really don't like him, but after everything that went down, I think maybe he was just as much a victim as any of us."

Hermione nodded in agreement, but watched as Harry's scowl darkened a bit.

"But…you still can't go and see him," he continued slowly.

She felt her gut clench a little with anxiety that settled deep in the pit of her stomach.

"Why not?"

He didn't answer for a moment, looking nervous as he rubbed his nose.

"Harry? Why not?"

He squirmed uncomfortably,

"You really didn't hear?" he asked. Hermione shook her head, feeling her anxiety bloom and grow into fear. Harry sighed and ran a hand through his messy hair. He leaned forwards with his elbows resting on the table between them, looking suddenly cross. Hermione waited breathlessly for him to continue.

"Malfoy's in Azkaban."

Her whole body froze in shock. She hadn't been expecting that.

"What? Why?" she spluttered, rising to her feet with a jolt even though her legs were suddenly numb underneath her. Harry let out a slow breath.

"Since Lucius died in the battle, the Magical Law Enforcement prosecutors have been going after any kind of Malfoy blood that they can get their hands on, to repay the crimes of the father, so to speak."

"But Malfoy was just a child, like us… he never willingly did anything, it was all under duress."

"I know, I tried to vouch for him, but they didn't want to hear it. But then again, since when has the Ministry listened to me when it didn't suit their own agenda?"

Hermione was outraged. She felt her fists clench tightly until the round, manicured beds of her nails dug painfully into her palms. Against her conscious will she started to pace back and forth across the kitchen floor.

"But…he didn't…I was…how long?" she finally asked.

"He was arrested around the beginning of August. He's been imprisoned ever since. The trial is supposed to begin sometime in November."

Hermione closed her eyes. She put her hand on her forehead as a headache began to form, throbbing at the back of her sinuses.

"What are we going to do?"

Harry blinked in surprise.


Hermione spun to face him directly.

"We have to help!"

Her friend just looked at her with a dumbfounded expression.

"Narcissa has hired the most snooty lawyer in Britain, Hermione. I'm sure he'll be just fine. Anyway, I doubt they'd want our help."

She shook her head, feeling that tickling of magic at the edge of her senses again.

"No. That's not good enough. I'm going to go see him," she said firmly. Harry rolled his eyes.

"You can't visit him. He's in Azkaban," he said slowly, deliberately as if she wasn't really listening to him, "You don't just get to walk in to a place like that. Even his own mother isn't allowed to see him."

Hermione's mind raced for a few moments as her pacing stopped. She paused on the threshold of a huge decision, wondering whether she should jump off the precipice into total madness. Eventually she raised her eyes to look at Harry and she could tell that he already knew what she was going to say. She took a deep, shaky breath and folded her arms protectively in front of her.

"Just watch me."


Well that's my first chapter! I've set up the basic premise of the narrative and I'm super keen to hear what you think. Where do you think this is going? As always I have a vague outline in my head but I am open to persuasion… Thanks for reading and please review to inspire me to continue this one!