The True Beast


Written for Bex

Prompt: Hermione/Lucius - I haven't written anything big with this pairing before, so hopefully I've written them okay here. :)

Thanks to: Sam, Lizzy, Shannon, Raybe and anyone else who helped me with this.

Beauty and the Beast!AU


Hermione slipped her latest book under her arm and headed across the small farm-house where she lived with her father, and to the front door. She picked up the basket next to the door and stifled a yawn. She had been up half of the night reading her latest book and was paying for it that morning, though it was worth it.

She opened the front door and walked out, spotting her father in the stable a short distance away, tending to the two horses they owned.

She walked over to him, smiling widely. "Father, is there anything you want from the shops?" she asked. "Or just what you've put on the list?"

Her father looked up from where he was grooming his trusty old horse and returned her smile. "Nothing at all," he replied. "And don't forget: those eggs are for the baker."

"I won't forget," Hermione insisted. "It's more than he usually orders, isn't it? I delivered some eggs only yesterday."

"He had a big order and ran out. It's Andromeda's birthday and there is a last minute order for a large cake," Hermione's father explained, running the back of his arm across his forehead. "I'm hoping he wants extra tomorrow too."

"Hopefully. I'll see if he says anything when I deliver these," Hermione said. "I'm going now. I'll be as quick as I can."

Her father chuckled. "That's if you don't get lost in Sirius Black's home again," he teased.

Hermione shook her head at him and turned to leave. She couldn't blame him, after all she did tend to lose track of the time when there were books involved. It hadn't happened too many times, but enough for her father to make it a running joke every time she left the house. But Mr. Black was kind enough to allow her access to his collection of books, and in a town like theirs, there wasn't much in the way for reading. She was grateful to him for being one of the few people who didn't disapprove of her reading books.

Hermione quickly made her way up the uneven stone path and took the book out from under her arm. The basket rested at the crook of her elbow and she opened the book and began to read as she took the same path that she took every single day without fail.

...oOo...

She walked through the copse of trees that offered the farmhouse some privacy from anyone taking a walk. The sky was clear and the sun hadn't long risen, leaving the ground with a beautiful glow from the sunlight. It wasn't a long walk unfortunately, and soon she found herself moving between the villagers that had just woken up. She closed her book, the bumping and jostling not making for a good reading environment and she headed to the bakers to drop off the eggs.

She managed to do what she needed to quickly, and that gave her more time to look at books. She hurried eagerly through the town once more.

"Hermione."

Hermione sighed at the sound of her name. She knew who was calling her: it was Lucius Malfoy. It was always Lucius Malfoy. She was tempted to quickly rush into the crowd of people to lose him, but had no doubts that Lucius would hound her until she acknowledged him. He wouldn't stop so there was no point even trying to escape. Instead, she turned around and plastered a polite smile on her lips.

"Mr. Malfoy," she said in way of greeting.

She watched Lucius Malfoy walk towards her, his long blond hair tied back with a bow. His eyes raked over her carefully and his lips curved up into a smirk, clearly happy with what he could see. "You have been informed many times that you can call me Lucius," he stated, his voice silky and inviting. "Here, let me take your things."

Hermione moved her arm away from Lucius' reaching hands. The basket wasn't overly heavy and she didn't like the constant implication that she couldn't manage these things herself. Before, she had assumed that he was just being helpful until he actually rudely stated what she suspected. Ever since then, she would not allow him to help her because it just meant time in his company that she would rather not endure. Just the short conversations were too much for her to deal with.

"My dear," he murmured, his smirk widening as he noticed the book that was tucked under her arm. "Why waste your time reading these dreadful books? A woman should focus on what is important."

"Oh, like cooking and cleaning and raising children?" Hermione replied, raising her eyebrows. She was unable to fold her arms like she wanted as the book and basket didn't allow her to. Instead she fixed him with her best unimpressed glare.

"Of course not," Lucius said with a mocking laugh. "That is what servants are for. I was merely suggesting you pay more attention to the eligible men in this town, rather than the ones that litter the pages of those books."

"I don't see any eligible men here," Hermione retorted, moving her gaze from his face and looking around. "Not a single one. Mr. Malfoy, I have to return home. I have chores to do. I have to help my father on the farm and I have to prepare supper. I also would like to read my book. Good day."

She slipped past him and headed back down the path to her home with Lucius staring after her.

As she disappeared from view, a man walked towards Lucius.

"Where have you been?" Lucius asked, his cool grey eyes shifting to the other man.

"Checking on my brother," Regulus replied.

Lucius shook his head. "Twelve years he's locked himself away. You would think after twelve years, he would move on and get on with his life. I don't understand men like him."

"He lost someone dear to him," Regulus replied, downcast as he always was after visiting with Sirius. He forced a smile onto his face. "I saw you talking to Hermione. How did it go?"

"She infuriates me and fascinates me!" Lucius replied. "A beautiful girl - the most beautiful in town and she wants to live her life through a book rather than see what is around her. She wants the adventures and romances she reads about, but does nothing to achieve what she wants. She doesn't understand that I can take her to the places she's always dreamed of going. I can give her and her father a secure home and he would never need work again. I can offer her a romance to shame that of the book. But she's painted me as the villain and it seems I cannot change that no matter what I try."

"Well, there are a lot of other women out there…" Regulus offered.

"Other women?" Lucius scoffed. "I assure you that Lord Malfoy only gets the best. Hermione is the best. She is the most beautiful and would look fine on my arm."

"But would she be happy there?"

"Is there a woman that wouldn't be happy?" Lucius asked. He looked pointedly at the three Black sisters who were watching him in return. Narcissa Black whispered something, causing one to smirk at him and the other to giggle.

Lucius turned his attention away. After all, he had decided to pursue Hermione and he didn't want to waste his time with the other women in the town. Especially not the one he had been engaged to so many years ago… or her sisters.

...oOo...

Hermione helped her father as he loaded the crops onto his wagon for his visit to the monthly market in the bigger town. It would take him hours to get there, and it was still dark in the morning as he readied himself. Hermione held the lantern up as to offer light, as her father secured the crops and wrapped his cloak around himself further.

"You take care," he insisted, leaning in to kiss her cheek before getting up on the horse. "You know what to do with the pigs—"

"Yes, Father," Hermione insisted. "I've done this so many times now that I'm certain of what to do."

Her father nodded his head. "Is there anything you'd like me to bring you back?"

"Just yourself, safe," she replied, with a smile. "Goodbye, Father, I'll see you tonight."

He waved at her as the old horse began to make the monthly journey out of town, and Hermione went inside to fix herself a cup of tea. It would be sunrise in a little while and she could watch the beautiful sight before getting started.

...oOo...

The chores were finished and Hermione found her way to the library. Well, it wasn't so much a library than a wealthy man who would lend her one of the books from his collection. There were a lot, but she worried as she worked her way through that one day in the near future, she would have read them all.

She rapped on the door, a jar of home-made jam in her basket, and a couple of minutes passed until the door opened and the dark-haired man let her in.

"Mr. Black," she said, smiling at him. "How are you today?"

The gaunt looking man attempted to smile, but it was clear his heart wasn't in it. "Good afternoon, Hermione. Market day?"

"Indeed it is," she confirmed. "I finished the book from yesterday. I could barely put it down. I must admit I was reading long into the night by candlelight."

The forced smile appeared a little more genuine. "I'm glad to hear. It's important to me that I help those that have a love of books," he said.

"And you? Do you have a love of books?" Hermione asked.

Sirius Black didn't answer. He turned his gaze to the book Hermione had passed him back and smiled softly down at it. He never answered the question and she had never seen him even attempt to read one of the books, though it was clear that he loved the collection he had built up. She wondered if he'd ever tell her.

"Harry is off picking flowers with Miss Lovegood," he finally answered. "What was your last book about?"

"It was about revenge," Hermione said. "Prince Hamlet returns to his former home to get revenge on his uncle who was the cause of his father's death. The uncle had killed him for the throne and married the king's widow. It was different to anything I've read before and very gripping."

Sirius nodded. "And what will you choose next?"

"How about you recommend one for me?" Hermione requested, as she always did.

Sirius walked to the shelves and picked a book at random. "Gulliver's Travels," he read. His eyes widened at the sight of the book and his fingers clenched hard on the book.

"Mr. Black?" Hermione asked, stepping forward. She looked between him and the book as he pulled it against his chest. "I… perhaps you should read that and I can take something else? I wouldn't want to take a book that means so much to you."

Sirius turned his eyes on her and she had never seen the man so vulnerable before. She placed a hand on his arm, which startled him enough for him to offer the book.

"No," he replied. "I trust you with this, Hermione. Just… whatever you do, don't damage the book. It's of great personal value to me."

"I'll be careful," she promised. "Tell Harry I hope he is well and I'll call on him soon. Also… tell him that meeting Luna in the afternoon is not the way to win her heart. She prefers being out during the sunset. She thinks it's more mystical."

Sirius smiled. "I'll ensure he gets that message. Good afternoon, Hermione."

...oOo...

Hermione settled down with another cup of tea and opened the new book, eager to get started on reading. She had high-hopes for the book, seeing Sirius Black's reaction to it.

On the first page, her eyes fell on a handwritten message. Usually Hermione frowned at the messages inside of the books, but this one had her reassessing what she knew about the man.

With all my love and devotion,

Another book for you to read to me with your beautiful voice. Something I will never tire of.

Yours forever, Sirius.

The book belonged to someone he loved. Upon that realisation, she wondered if any of the books belonged to Mr. Black or if they were all just left in his possession.

She handled the book with even more care than before, and was halfway through when she heard her father's horse, Sparky. She quickly headed to her room and slipped the book into a drawer out of the way before heading outside to greet her father.

She quickly realised something was wrong. Upon the sight of the lone horse, she looked around, searching for her father but he was nowhere to be seen. She began to panic as the minutes went by and there was no-one on the path.

Finally, after about fifteen minutes of waiting, she headed back inside for her warmest cloak and climbed onto Sparky's saddle. She ordered him to take her to her father.

...oOo...

The horse led her through the forest and deep into the woods. Evidence of a path appeared, though thorns seemed to be blocking the way. Hermione realised that Sparky was searching for a way past the thorns and grabbed at them, pulling them aside. The thorns scratched at her arms and hands, cutting into her skin, but she didn't care. She had to find her father and if this was the way, well, a bunch of thorns wouldn't be able to stop her.

She climbed back onto Sparky, and they set off down the newly revealed pathway. Sparky seemed agitated, eager to leave, but also wanting to follow Hermione's instructions. He finally brought her to a large rundown manor.

As she approached, she heard a loud growl. Sparky backed up away from the wolf that appeared, blocking their way. Sparky began to back away as the wolf advanced, his teeth bared.

Without warning, Sparky reared up on his hind legs and Hermione was unable to keep her balance. She fell from his back and the wolf turned its attention to her. As the horse ran, she realised that the only way to safety was to get past the wolf and to the manor. Perhaps her father had gone in there for shelter? After all, Sparky had led her to there.

She didn't head the way the horse had run. She was there to find her father. Instead she grabbed a nearby fallen stick which was heavy, but felt like a defence to at least hinder the wolf.

She edged around it, but the large beast was determined not to let her get any closer to the gates of the manor. It got between her and them, and Hermione started back.

The wolf didn't move and Hermione realised that it wasn't trying to attack her. Instead, it was trying to stop her entering the manor grounds. She edged around the wolf and it kept trying to block her, but even when she was inches from it, it didn't do more than snap at her and block her way. With use of the stick to keep it at bay, she made it to the gates.

With one last look at the wolf, whom she swore was giving her a pleading look, she opened the gates and rushed through, making sure to close them after her again.

The wolf let out a howl as she walked away, her eyes on the manor and on the two lights in use. The place wasn't abandoned and hopefully one of the lit rooms contained her father.

She pulled her cloak tighter and walked through the snow on the ground. She didn't stop to consider how beautiful the grounds were. There were more important things to think about.

...oOo...

Hermione quietly let herself into the house. The place was dark, but she recalled a light to the far right of the doors and one upstairs somewhere. The question was: where was her father?

"Hello?" she called nervously. "Is anyone here? Father?"

There was no reply and Hermione tried to get her bearings. She glanced around, taking in the many doorways and finally noticed a light at the top of the stairs, through an arch. Another light flickered from the doorway to her right, and she guessed it was from a fire.

Finally there was a small light behind her and she reached for the candlestick that gave off the light and started towards the door to her right.

"That is not the way," the candlestick drawled, and Hermione almost dropped it. She stared at the face on the item, her eyes wide.

"Did you just speak?"

"Obviously," it said, dragging the word out as it rolled it's eyes. "Upstairs."

Hermione stood and gaped at it. "Did you not hear me, stupid girl?" the candlestick said. "I said upstairs. I do not wish to repeat myself."

Hermione turned away from the light and headed towards the stairs, wondering if she was imagining the voice. Furniture couldn't talk. The candlestick couldn't talk. No. It just wasn't possible.

A cough had her speeding up. "That's my father!"

"I would never have guessed," the candlestick said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. Hermione glared at it before rushing up the stairs and towards the noise. It only took a couple of minutes to find the cell that he resided in and she set the candle down before reaching for him through the bars.

"Father!"

"Run, Hermione," the man demanded. "A monster has captured me. Get to the town and tell them - warn them. Get out whilst you still can!"

"Get out?" came a growl from behind her. "Silly humans. What makes you think I'd let anyone leave?"

Hermione spun around, her eyes widening at the sight of the large wolfman that stood near her. She felt terrified at the feral look in his eyes.

"You know you can only keep one," the candle said, clearly bored with the events.

"Get out," roared the wolfman, but Hermione stood her ground, though her father tried to push her away through the bars.

"I'm not leaving my father," she said. "Why do you have him?"

The wolf growled. "He's my prisoner. He can never leave."

Hermione looked at her father. The man who had protected her and done everything he could to provide for her. She knew a cell like what he was in would kill her father in months.

"Let my father go and I will stay," she insisted.

"No, Hermione you need to leave," her father demanded.

"I will stay," she repeated louder.

The wolf stared between them for a long moment, before his eyes moved down to a teapot that had made it's way closer.

"Hem Hem," it began, smiling around with a sickening sweet smile. "My Lord, she is much younger. She has more time…"

The wolf's eyes lit up in a greedy manner. He threw the cell door open and grabbed the man, hauling him from the cell and dragging him from the manor. Hermione rushed after them, but a feral growl caused her to stop in terror.

...oOo...

The wolfman returned quickly.

"Did he…"

"He's alive." He smiled softly. "My apologies. Let me explain myself before you rush to judgement on me. There is a curse on my home and if someone comes here and eats, they are trapped. You giving yourself to take his place… I know how hard that would have been and I apologise for my treatment of you both."

Hermione stared at him, shocked at his change of behaviour.

"If I am to stay here, will I be living in this cell?" she asked carefully.

He grinned at her. "Not at all. Your father… he tried to run. The curse…" the beast sighed. "My name is Fenrir Greyback. Let me show you to your room."

Hermione silently followed Greyback through the manor and to a bedroom in the east wing. Her eyes widened as he threw open the door for her.

"Again, I'd like to apologise for my anger earlier. The thorns should have deterred you away, or the wolf that guards the place."

"You… you were the one that placed that wolf there?" Hermione asked.

Greyback nodded solemnly. "I wanted him to stop people coming in. He's not doing well: he's let two people slip past now. I'm sorry…"

"Hermione," she offered.

...oOo...

Dinner was a quiet event. Hermione was unhappy without her father, but was starving. She had been waiting to eat for her father's return, and then rushed to find him. Plus, from what she was gathering, there was a curse on the manor itself and on people inside. That meant that the man who had imprisoned first her father and then her, wasn't as bad as she had initially thought.

After Hermione requested whether Greyback had some books, she was brought to a large library. Greyback sat next to her and asked her about herself.

Hermione answered, telling Greyback about her living on a farm with her father. "What about you? How did you end up cursed?"

"I was a selfish man," Greyback replied, averting his eyes from her. "I only cared about beauty. A… an enchantress turned up one day, asking for shelter and I refused. She had taken the appearance of a hag you see, and I was selfish. She cursed me, Hermione. She said that the curse would break if I learnt to care about someone for more than their looks, and if someone could care for me."

"You must have had people who cared about you?" Hermione murmured.

"Not for who I truly am," Greyback replied. "Hermione, I had servants, but I've never had a real friend. I lost my parents a year before the curse took me. I just need to learn to care about someone. Then I will be a man again. Then my servants will become human and we'll all gain our freedom again."

"Maybe I could help you learn to care?" Hermione suggested, eager at the suggestion of gaining her freedom.

"I'd like that," Greyback admitted with a warm smile, reaching for a nearby book.

...oOo...

"My daughter!" David Granger shouted, rushing into the bar, shivering from the cold. "My daughter has been taken."

"What?" Harry asked, standing up and almost knocking over Neville's drink. "What happened?"

"She was taken by a beast!" David said, wildly. "A big… wolf. A beast of one. He was… he was a wolfman."

A man chuckled. "A wolfman?"

David spun around. "I know how it sounds, but she's gone! Quickly, he'll kill her. You all have to help me."

"I'll help," Harry shouted, concerned for his friend.

"Wait a moment. David, how did your daughter get taken?" Lucius asked, not moving from his seat.

"I was returning from the market and got lost in the woods. I found a castle and was attacked by a wolf as I tried to enter a manor. I got inside somehow and… and I called for help. I found a table with food and took a piece of bread and tried to warm myself by the fire. The beast found me and threw me in a cell. Hermione found me and… and she said she'd stay in my place. I argued, but the beast decided to keep her. I know the way, please, save her."

Neville and Harry looked at each other. The story sounded far-fetched, but Harry turned to leave. He needed to ask Sirius his thoughts on the matter. After all, he had been trying to find Hermione all afternoon with no luck. He had already been concerned and decided that something must have happened.

David Granger looked around once more. "Please."

Lucius stood up and walked over. "If you have proof of this beast, show us."

"I… I have none," David admitted. "Lucius, won't you do something, you are the most powerful man in this town."

Lucius mulled the idea over. It was clear what he had to do. He wanted Hermione as his wife and her life was in danger. Her father could be the key.

"I'll be risking my life if there really is a wolfman," he said. "By agreeing and talking the others into doing this, I'd be risking all of our lives."

David Granger stared at him for a long moment. "I…"

"Go and think about what you have said to us," Lucius insisted. "Tell us the truth and we will find your daughter, but we can't go rushing after a beast from a story."

...oOo...

"Sirius, Hermione is missing."

Sirius turned from the box of photos, quickly closing the lid. "What?"

"She went searching for her father and he came back without her. He said she was taken prisoner by a wolfman."

"That sounds… crazy," Sirius said.

"But I was looking for her earlier and she wasn't at home. She isn't in town, so she's at least missing," Harry pushed. "If she's missing and her father is raving that something took her prisoner, shouldn't we help?"

"She disappeared?" Sirius' eyes returned to the box briefly. "Okay… we'll do something." He quickly pulled an old coat on and walked from his home, Harry following behind. The walk to the inn was quick and they walked in just as David was leaving. Upon seeing Sirius, he came back into the inn and waited to see what Sirius had to say.

All eyes turned to Sirius, shocked to see him out. Sirius rarely left his house, just to buy food. He was known as a recluse and people could go months at times without seeing him.

"Sirius?" Regulus asked, rushing over.

"A missing girl," Sirius said, loudly, gaining the room's full attention. "Two years ago, Caradoc Dearborn disappeared when searching for plants for medicines. Before that, Benjy Fenwick."

"Don't tell me these things are linked?" scoffed Cornelius Fudge from his seat at the bar.

"Gideon and Fabian Prewett," Sirius insisted.

"It's not connected," came another shout.

"Marlene McKinnon. Dorcas Meadowes. Mary—" Sirius continued, determined to show everyone that there was a serious problem.

"People go missing all of the time," came another shout, though this one was more doubtful.

Sirius looked around slowly. "James and Lily Potter disappeared when their son was just a child."

"And Remus Lupin and Barty Crouch," Regulus added, meeting his brother's gaze. "I think Sirius is right."

All eyes turned to Lucius and he nodded his head. "Go out now and call anyone you can who can help us. There may be a beast, there may not. We will be prepared. If something is taking people, we will stop them tonight. Bring any weapons. We meet back here in an hour."

David approached Lucius. "You asked what it's worth? Well, it's—"

"I would like your permission to court your daughter," Lucius said. "If you say no, I will still go and find her. I have had my sights on her for a long time and a desire to marry her."

David slowly nodded. "If my daughter agrees, I will allow it. If she agrees, I will give my blessing and agree to the marriage too."

"You will lead the way," Lucius said. "I don't want you there as you look ill from your journey, but you will show us the way."

"I will,"

...oOo...

Hermione headed to her bedroom, feeling optimistic. She could teach Greyback to care about her. She could learn to care for him, as long as he kept up his friendly demeanour that was, and didn't be the monster she first thought. Once that happened, she could leave the manor and be reunited with her father once more.

She settled into the bed, before noticing that there was a duster by her pillow.

She frowned and reached for it, but pulled her hand back as the item moved and green eyes looked at her.

"He's lying to you."

"I… I'm sorry?" Hermione said, her eyes widening. "Who?"

"Greyback. He's not what he appears. The monster on the outside: that's a reflection of the monster within. I shouldn't be talking to you and if he finds out, I'll be destroyed."

"You need to tell me more," Hermione begged. "Please."

"There was no curse or spell put on here to bind you. The spell is one that makes him unable to leave the grounds. He's too weak to break the spell, but with each prisoner, he gains strength."

"How?"

"Do you think I was always a duster?" it asked. "I was once a woman. Lily. I had a husband, James, and a son—"

"Harry!" Hermione exclaimed. "You are his mother."

"You know my—" the duster shook herself. "No time for me to ask that. James begged Greyback to take him instead, but Greyback refused. James refused to leave the grounds. Two days later, he disappeared. Greyback said he became part of the manor just like I am now. James is here somewhere and I don't even know… Hermione, he accepted you over your father because you have more power to give him. You are enough to allow him to break his curse and escape. Don't let him. He's a monster. He'll hurt anyone and everyone. He's killed children."

Hermione slipped from the bed. "I'm going to run now," she whispered. "I'm going to get out of here and warn people." But when she opened the door, she found Greyback.

"Leaving already?" he asked, his yellowing teeth bared as he smiled at her. "Hermione, it would have been so much easier if you had just believed me. That way you wouldn't have to be locked in the dungeon. You could have read the books and been oblivious to all of this. A willing prisoner is easier to control than a reluctant one."

"Willing or reluctant, one is still a prisoner," Hermione snapped.

Greyback reached out and lifted a strand of her hair. "It's turning into paper," he noted. "A book. How boring of you."

"A… a book?"

Greyback grinned wider. "Yes. You're going to be a book. Maybe the next prisoner will read you before they give up their lives too?"

...oOo...

Once the thorns were chopped back, Lucius led the way to the manor, Sirius at his side. Though the men hated each other, they both had a common goal. To free Hermione. Though Sirius was intent on revenge, having decided that whatever lay in the manor at the end of the journey was the reason why his love had never returned to him.

Twelve years was a long time to wait for someone to return, but Sirius knew that he would have given his whole life to waiting for Remus Lupin to come back to him. But if something was taking prisoners, it was also likely that Remus had died twelve years ago.

A growl caused him to raise his gun. A wolf stood at the gates of the manor.

"Wait!" David shouted. "That wolf tried to chase me away from here and it didn't attack me. It's… I think it's stopping people from entering."

Sirius stared at the wolf who was watching him intently, and he lowered the gun. "If it attacks, we shoot," Lucius said, already heading to the gates. The wolf merely backed away, its eyes on Sirius.

"The beast is mine," Lucius began as the gates were forced open.

"That beast took everything from me," Sirius replied. "I'm going to be the one to kill it."

The wolf stood and watched the group storm the manor.

...oOo...

Lucius watched as the door was broken down. Inside was a sight he thought he'd never see. Furniture all attacking each other, intent on destroying each other. One side was led by a teapot and the other by a feather duster.

"Bring us to the girl!" Lucius demanded.

"The dungeons," the duster replied before the teapot attacked her.

"Traitor to the master," the teapot snarled.

Lucius avoided the fighting, managing to slip past and headed to the dungeons, having seen Sirius head upstairs to find the wolfman, Harry at his side and other men starting for the stairs. Lucius wanted to find Hermione. He was scared that she had already been hurt. The idea of not seeing her ever again… the feeling wasn't something he would ever admit to

It didn't take long, and a few shots of his gun broke the lock and he helped Hermione out of the tiny cell. "What happened?" he asked softly, brushing back her hair and frowning at the texture.

"Greyback… he takes the life from the prisoners and they turn into… into objects," she said, trying to hold the tears back. "I'm… I don't know how to fix this, Lucius."

"We destroy the monster," Lucius assured her. "Would that work?"

"It's his curse," she admitted. "Perhaps?"

Lucius smiled softly. "And if that doesn't work… well, we just keep you away from the fireplace," he joked.

Hermione laughed through the tears that threatened to fall. "Harry's parents are here somewhere. A duster, and… and I don't know what else."

Lucius nodded. "Come, let's get you out of here."

"No, I want to make sure he dies," she said. "And that teapot too. She's been mocking me since I got thrown in here. I want to stamp on her and smash her into pieces."

She took his hand and allowed Lucius to lead her through the castle.

...oOo...

Furniture were laying in wait for them, but Sirius and Harry fought their way through, finally making it to a large room with a rose floating above a table.

"What's this?" Sirius murmured.

A growl came from a dark corner and a looming monster descended upon the pair.

Sirius raised his gun and shot at it, but the bullet missed and the beast knocked the gun from his hands. Sirius was slammed against the wall, before he fell to the ground. When he looked up, the wolf from outside was attacking the wolfman, protecting Sirius from whatever Greyback had been about to do to him.

Harry steadied his gun, looking for an opening to shoot, but the friendly wolf wasn't giving them a good shot to take out Greyback, and neither of them wanted to kill the wolf that was saving their lives.

...oOo...

Hermione stumbled into the room. Her gaze fell on the wolf on the ground, whimpering in pain, and Sirius and Harry cornered by the beast. She glanced around, spotting the gun on the floor and a flower floating in the air. The flower appeared to have a shrine and she recalled details from Greyback's stories about a rose that was precious to him because it indicated when he would be trapped forever.

This one was magic, but his stories were lies therefore it had to do something else.

Hermione reached out and grabbed it, pulling it from where it had been. That second, Greyback dropped to his knees, whimpering in pain.

Hermione stamped on the flower and Greyback was whimpering on the floor.

As she debated what to do next, the sound of a gunshot rang through the room and Greyback stopped moving.

A blinding light filled the room, starting with turning the dead monster into a man, showing everyone what they had been fighting. The wolf that was hurt was covered in the light and Sirius fell to his knees next to the man that appeared.

"Remus? My love, you're alive."

Eyes opened slightly. "Sirius," came the whisper. "I knew I'd see you again."

Hermione turned to Harry. "The feather duster downstairs is your mother," she said. Harry turned and bolted from the room, leaving Lucius and Hermione looking at each other.

"Have I redeemed myself?" Lucius asked.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand?"

"You've so long had me painted as a villain from one of your books. Have I shown you that I'm more than that?"

Hermione couldn't help but laugh as she reached up to find her hair starting to feel more like hair again. "That's not it," she said. "Lucius, you want a woman at your beck and call. You want me because you think I'll look good on your arm. I'm never going to stop reading books and I'm never going to give up the things I love doing. We're from two different worlds and that's why I don't give you a chance."

"Hermione, I am a powerful man and though I'm used to getting everything I want, you're the only person I've never been able to charm. So with every ounce of honesty, I want to tell you that I've cared deeply about you for a long time. I came here though I didn't believe this wolfman existed, because I wanted to save you. I didn't save you so I could win you over, I just hope that it's enough to change your opinion of me."

Hermione smiled, moving closer. "Thank you for saving me," she murmured, wrapping her arms around him.

Lucius smirked, taking a hand and tilting her chin up. "You're welcome," he said, pressing his lips to hers - finally.

...oOo...

The group walked down the stairs to find Harry rushing around the room, searching for his mother. Sirius supported Remus who could barely walk and Lucius held Hermione's hand, leading her through.

Hermione's foot caught on a broken teapot. She glanced around, before stepping down hard on it on her way out. It had been clear that the teapot was just as evil and sadistic as Greyback was. As she walked through, she spotted a redheaded woman and a man who looked like an older Harry walking through the door. The man woman was limping and the man had a deep wound across his face and ear.

"They are all here!" Sirius said from behind her. "James, Lily! I found Remus!"

James grinned. "Good news mate," he said, his voice hoarse. "Where's Harry?"

"Dad?" Harry made his way over. "Mum?"

"Harry!" Lily cried, stumbling over and throwing her arms around Harry. "I'm sorry we left you. We thought… we thought Remus and Sirius had a falling out again and that Remus left this time for good. But a few years later... we heard word of a man fitting Remus' description and went to find him to convince him to come home."

"I came to the woods for a walk to clear my mind," Remus replied. "I always intended to return when I cooled off a little. I got trapped here."

"But why were you a wolf?" Lily asked. "I've spent all of these years wondering where you and James ended up in the house. I feared that maybe he had killed you both. I knew without a doubt that you were here. I asked Greyback about you and he admitted to having met you."

Remus shook his head. "I tried to escape and he attacked me. He bit me and… and I think he passed some of his own curse over onto me and instead of turning into a bit of furniture, I turned into a wolf. I decided that I would stop others from meeting the fate I did, but some people still got past me. After all, I could never bring myself to hurt anyone to scare them."

Hermione's father rushed over, wrapping his arms around Hermione. "You're alive," he murmured, clinging to his daughter. "Don't you ever dare do anything like this again."

"Of course father. I won't let myself be kidnapped by a crazed monster, you have my word," Hermione said. "He tried to trick me. He lied about the curse. He said he had to learn to care about someone and that would break it and I would be free. I found out from Lily that this wasn't the case. When I tried to escape, he caught me. But I was already changing. My hair was turning to paper. I like to read books. I don't want to be one!"

Lucius took Hermione in his arms once her father let her go. "A terrible experience, but you're safe now," Lucius insisted. "Perhaps a trip away from here would take your mind off it?"

Hermione raised her eyebrows. "A little soon for suggesting a trip, isn't it, Lucius?"

"Well, you're calling me by my name so that's progress," Lucius replied with a smile.

...oOo...

Hermione sat on the hill near her house, her eyes on the sun as it set. She didn't look around as someone approached, taking a seat next to her.

Once the sun was down and the beautiful colours filling the sky had faded, Hermione glanced to where Lucius Malfoy was sitting next to her. She wanted to snort at the sight - Lucius wasn't the type of man to sit around on the grass quietly. "Lucius," she greeted. "What brings you here?"

"Your father gave me permission to court you," he replied. "But I am here to ask for your permission too."

Hermione looked away. Part of her was annoyed that her father thought it was okay to agree to someone courting her, but Lucius wanted her permission. It gave her the impression that if she said no, he wouldn't try.

But there was something in the way he had treated her after finding her. How he had been so gentle. He had been her hero and made sure she got home safely. They had even shared a kiss that may have been better than the ones she had read about in her books.

Lucius wasn't as bad as she thought and it wouldn't hurt to give him a chance. Once Hermione made that choice, she realised that she was actually looking forward to spending more time with Lucius.

"I will give you a chance," she finally replied.

"A good decision," Lucius stated. He picked up a book from his side, something Hermione hadn't noticed before. "I brought you a courting gift," he said.

Hermione carefully took the book.

"It's Robinson Crusoe, a book I've enjoyed many times," Lucius stated. "It's rare, so be careful with it."

"What's it about?" Hermione asked. "Mr. Black hasn't shown me this story yet."

"It's a fictional tale of a man who washes up on a desert island," Lucius replied. "Telling you anything more may spoil parts of the book, but we could discuss it once you've finished reading."

"Tomorrow?" Hermione grinned.

Lucius shook his head. "This is not a book to be rushed. Take your time to enjoy it. I'll visit you again in a week. Is that acceptable?"

Hermione nodded. "We can meet here."

Lucius looked around, not looking entirely happy at the idea, but he nodded. "I'll have some dinner packed for the both of us," he said.

...oOo...

Hermione finished discussing Gulliver's Travels with Remus over tea. It had taken Remus some time to recover and her visits with Sirius had been put on hold for a while whilst he tended to the other man. She knew that Sirius liked to have Remus alone and could only imagine what the two men would do together.

Harry was delighted to have his parents back. James had been found outside - having been a broomstick that was somehow unable to enter the house, and the three of them were staying in their old house, away from Sirius and Remus' activities.

Hermione walked past the old farm and towards the manor on top of the hill. She smiled at the various staff and stopped to kiss her father on the cheek where he tended his small patch of vegetables, not willing to give everything up.

Hermione headed inside and it was only a few seconds before she heard the familiar sound of Lucius' cane as he came into view.

"Hermione, I hope you had fun today? An enjoyable tea?"

Hermione grinned. "I don't get why you don't like Sirius and Remus," she said. "They are wonderful."

"Perhaps you should marry one of them?" Lucius suggested, his eyebrows raising at her statement.

"That would mean leaving you," she said, leaning up to place a kiss on his cheek. "I was thinking something simple - just close family and friends."

Lucius smirked. "I believe my staff are planning something a bit bigger than that."

Hermione sighed but allowed Lucius to lead her to the ballroom to practice their dancing for their upcoming wedding. "Okay, how about we agree that there will be under a hundred people."

"I will attempt that, but there is a chance it will be closer to two," he said. "But don't worry. We will leave for a honeymoon wherever you wish to go afterwards."

"Anywhere?" Hermione asked, smiling at him. "I had better start thinking about that now."


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