Disclaimer: I do not own the characters in the following story. I am simply the choreographer making these marvelous puppets dance to my mournful tune. All Harry Potter characters are owned by JK Rowling. I do not make any money from my fan-fiction writing.

Author's Note:

I wrote this story starting shortly after the loss of my father, the greatest man I have ever known.

The story is riddled with all the angst and pain that I have had bottled up for the past decade because it took me far too long to find that writing is therapeutic.

This is my first work of fan-fiction, though it's my fourth I'm putting online. It took me three months to write the first draft, which I did by hand because I had no intention of anyone ever seeing it. I'm now re-writing it as I feel more comfortable with my writing and the bravery of other authors online has inspired me to be brave too.

This story is exquisitely personal and because of that I've taken a lot of liberty with the characters, making some saints and some sinners (poor Ron) and Hermione, the main protagonist, has to suffer every terrible thing I could think of, plus all of the ones she already suffers in books six and seven simultaneously. On the plus side, she also gets all of the great things I could think of too.

So...if you're willing to go on an emotional roller-coaster ride, read on, otherwise, farewell friends and thanks for looking in on my work.



Chapter One – Proof

Displeasure forced it's way from Hermione's nose in a rush of air. "For the last time, Harry, I've had enough of your theories that Draco Malfoy is a Death Eater."

Over the past five years Hermione had seen all the signs that Draco Malfoy was a bigoted, self rightous, pompous, arrogant, spoiled brat of a boy, but a Death Eater? Surely not.

"Now that Lucius Malfoy is locked away in Azkaban prison, thanks to the Order of the Phoenix and some of Dumbledore's Army, including us, last year, I promise you that Malfoy will no longer be strutting around Hogwarts like he owns the place. He doesn't have his father to go running to anymore. He's absolutely harmless, Harry, and I certainly don't want to spend my time hearing about that arrogant viper for the rest of my N.E.W.T. year when I could be spending it studying."

"You didn't hear him on the train, Hermione," Harry expouted. "You didn't have your nose kicked in by his size nines!"

"It was a brawl, Harry. You've had worse injuries from Quidditch!" Hermione shook her head and her eyes rolled back in their sockets. There was only one way Harry would let this go and that would be to prove him wrong.

She knew that after Potions Malfoy was likely to head in the direction of the Slytherin Common Room because the Slytherin sixth years had a free period after potions the same as the Gryffindors. She would follow him after their first lesson tomorrow and check Malfoy's forearms herself. Once she had seen that they were clear of the Dark Mark she could shut down Harry's arguments and get on with her revision in peace.

The first lesson of Potions went like a dream for Hermione. Professor Slughorn seemed to admire her keenness for learning, unlike Professor Snape, and took Harry's praise of her as another positive, again, unlike Snape. She left the class light footed and in high spirits, having finally been recognised as the formidable witch she was by a Potions Professor. That rounded out every subject now, at least every subject that was worth studying in her opinion, and she felt invincible as she swept down the hallway between Potions and the Slytherin Common Room having excused herself from Harry and Ron claiming she had to attend to 'girl stuff.' She always did enjoy watching the boys run with their hands over their ears whenever she mentioned that sort of thing. It worked like a charm every time.

She had scouted out the hallway earlier that morning before breakfast and knew of an alcove hidden partially by a tapestry of a Gorgon. She planned to hide behind the tapestry and ambush Malfoy. If she stunned him from behind and checked his arms quickly she could renervate him from a distance as she made her getaway. She knew he would be without his usual cronies because Crabbe and Goyle hadn't met the requirements for NEWT level potions.

Hermione's heart pounded in her chest. It wasn't exactly a kind plan, stunning Malfoy in the back, but she was feeling vindictive considering that he had broken her best friend's nose the previous night and almost sent him on a journey back to London. If she hadn't been performing her prefect duties she would have stunned him on the train, she justified to herself, so he really did have it coming.

She waited, fingers on her wand itching with anticipation. He was taking too long. What if he wasn't alone? She didn't see his distinctive white blonde hair in the group of dark haired Slytherins making their way past. He must have been last to leave the classroom. Good.

She bounced on the balls of her feet to alleviate the ache in her legs. This really was taking too long. She sighed and gave up. There were no footsteps in the corridor so she pulled back the tapestry to head back to Gryffindor tower.

Her vision was blasted with a bright red light before all went black.

Hermione awoke to find herself propped against the wall in the alcove behind the tapestry, her head resting in the corner and legs splayed awkwardly. She drew them up protectively.

Malfoy stood over her, his wand aimed at her face. "Spying on me for Potter now, are you, Mudblood?" He snarled the insult through his teeth like a black panther.

"No," she replied, with forced bravado. From her seated position she recognised the physical strength Malfoy now possessed and couldn't help feel intimidated by it. He had grown over the summer break, taller, more solid than she remembered him, whereas Ron had simply grown taller and Harry was still lean and lithe. She could see now why Harry was so angry about the broken nose Malfoy had inflicted. Those legs would have inflicted solid force, and here she was, at his feet, at his mercy. She would have to talk her way out of this situation.

"Harry thinks...knows you're a Death Eater, Malfoy," she bluffed. "You're in trouble. Dumbledore can save you. The Order can protect you. I'll vouch for you to them if you'll accept my help."

"What makes you think I want your help, Granger?" Malfoy sneered.

Hermione straightened herself slightly and jutted her chin. "I never said I thought you wanted my help. I think you NEED it."

Malfoy furrowed his brow thoughtfully, his eyes taking in hers, then they trailed away, tracing over her arms, her chest, her stomach and down her legs. They creeped slowly back up again, lingering here and there. She felt the urge to cover up the areas her skirt had exposed during her fall but remained still. She wouldn't allow Malfoy the satisfaction of knowing he had unnerved her.

He slowly kneeled, placing his wand hand on the wall next to her face, his body forming a cage around her in the corner of the alcove. Her heart raced. She could feel his hot breath on her skin. He infiltrated her senses as she smelled the musk of his deodorant, felt the warmth radiating from his body as he leaned closer. She felt the brush of his lips on her earlobe and the pulse of air in her ear as he whispered, "There's only one thing I would ever need from you, Granger."

He cupped her face with his left hand and slowly ran his thumb over her crimson lips. His eyes were predatory, devouring the sight of her shocked face and conveying a lustful hunger that made the breath catch in her chest.

He pulled her lower lip down and slowly snaked his thumb inside her mouth. She gasped, her mouth fell open and her eyes widened, watering with fear and confusion. He ran his thumb further inside, the pad roughing over the smooth of her tongue which seemed to be paralysed as he rolled it side to side and around. He stared at her salaciously. She averted her eyes, unable to meet his with that look in them, that indecent, probing, exposing look.

He withdrew his thumb slowly and gently pushed her face away. "Just as I thought," he drawled. "Your lips give nothing but empty promises."

He stood and turned, releasing her from her cage. "Granger, stay out of my way," he commanded, then he swept past the tapestry of the Gorgon, the Medusa's head mocking her as she sat frozen in shock.

One by one the thoughts started to whirl in her mind, creating a vortex of uncertainty. What was that? Why did he…? Wait, what? If he was a Death Eater, why did he look at her...HER...that way? Was he just trying to frighten her to get her to stay away? Is that what men, no...boys...men?...like him did? Violence for Harry, sexual intimidation for her? But that made no sense. That look in his eyes...that wasn't a menacing look. That was a look of...heat. If he wanted her...HER...that way, if he wanted...that...with a muggleborn, surely he couldn't have a Dark Mark. Right? That was proof enough that he wasn't a Death Eater. Death Eaters wouldn't be caught dead touching muggleborns. Up until now though neither would Draco Malfoy.

Something certainly had changed now that Malfoy's father was in Azkaban. She would have to wait and see if the evidence led towards Death Eater, or would-be seducer of muggleborn witches. It had to be one or the other. Right?