Disclaimer: Don't own the characters, don't own the song.
There was a cat that really was gone.
"Crookshanks!" Hermione Granger hissed, hopping in a frenzy around her hotel room. Where the hell had he gone? There was scarcely any place to hide in the tiny hole of a room – she looked under the narrow single bed, under the desk, inside the wardrobe, inside the minibar: All cat-free. She even (stupidly) looked behind the giant Shishkin forest landscape on the wall...
The noise came from inside the heating register. Jesus Christ. She bent down and peered through the grate... and sure enough, two eyes with a flaming glow stared back at her.
"Crookshanks!" Hermione cried, "What the hell?"
She fumbled around for her wand and quickly vanished the grill behind which her dear familiar was caged.
"How on earth did you get in there, you silly kitty?" she murmured as she reached to pull him out. Crookshanks reacted to that as any self-respecting, highly-intelligent half-Kneazle would react to being called a silly kitty.
"YOWR." He pressed himself against the back of the vent and bared his impressive teeth.
"What are you doing? Come out of there!"
"YOWR. HISSS. GRRR. FUCK OFF."
"Well, fine. Stay there. See if I care."
Hermione cared, so she waited.
She waited in vain.
"Ugh, FINE," she surrendered, throwing up her hands. Straightening up, she took the required step-and-a-half (everything in the room was a step-and-a-half away,) to reach the desk that was littered with books and scrolls and paper cuttings. The entire pile was devoted to the big and strong, terrifying (alleged) lover of the Russian queen – Grigori Rasputin. According to his daughter Matryona, he was such a lovely dear. A saint who could preach the bible like a preacher. According to historian Douglas Smith, he was an enigma and a statesman.
According to Hermione's boss, Unspeakable Humbug (oh alright, Hamburg) he was also the one who'd discovered a potion that conferred immortality and eternal youth upon its drinker. And unlike with the philosopher's stone, it was a one-gulp-and-you're-good-to-go kind of deal. Super powerful stuff, that.
Through the window in front of the desk, Hermione looked out at the twinkling lights and glistening cupolas that comprised the city of Saint Petersburg. Her watch told her it was 8PM. At midnight sharp, her search for the Mad Monk would begin.
During the day, the Yusupov Palace on the Moika River was a museum. At night, it was heavily guarded and bolted. Not that that was a problem if you happened to be a highly capable witch with a wand.
The interiors were glorious, sumptuous, luxurious, and everything that Imperial Russia was all about. It was to the cellar that Hermione was headed; the place where Rasputin had been served poisoned wine and later, shot till he was "dead". Since she didn't have a bloody clue where to start, she decided to go to the location of his purported end.
The problem was the walls. And the ceilings. They were hindering her progress. The blasted baroquely-painted, stucco-worky surfaces were very distracting.
She was staring around awe-stricken at the Moorish drawing room when Malfoy drawled in his patently condescending manner, "Terribly garish, isn't it?"
"No more garish than your manor," Hermione replied.
Stop the presses.
She spun around like a tornado that could carry young girls and little dogs far, far away from Kansas.
"MALFOY?!" she screeched.
"Hello, Granger," he said agreeably, "Would it be a terrible imposition to ask you to talk in a regular, human-friendly pitch?"
"What –" she spluttered, "– How – Where –"
"Who, When, Why," he replied.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded in a harsh whisper.
"What are you doing here?"
"I – that's none of your business!"
"Well, likewise," he sniffed.
"We'd better hurry to the cellar... I'm sure your almighty shriek would've alerted Rasputin if he's still hanging around there..."
"What? How'd you know about –"
"Chop chop, Granger."
He took hold of her wrist and dragged her down flights of stairs. Too flummoxed to reclaim her arm, Hermione went along in a daze, her other arm flailing behind her and occasionally crashing into things.
They burst into the low, small room and Malfoy gasped.
"There he is!"
Panting, Hermione shoved him aside angrily. "No, you idiot. That's a wax statue."
Waxputin sat at a table laden with wax food and faux-poisoned faux-wine, (Malfoy strolled over and snapped his fingers in front of his waxy face; Hermione rolled her eyes,) and the statue of his would (-not-)be-killer, Felix Yusupov, stood by a chair. It was a kitschy but impressive display.
Hermione got to work. She prodded walls, felt around for secret trap doors, accio this, revelio that, but all for nought.
"Are you finished?" Malfoy enquired. He had made himself comfortable on the chair next to Waxputin and was using his wand to charm the statue's beard into braids.
"Stop that!" Hermione barked.
He complied and smiled – actually smiled – at her. "So what now?"
"Now we leave, and go our separate ways," she replied firmly.
"If your way is going to take you to the Bolshoi Petrovsky Bridge, off of which Rasputin's body was supposedly hurled... then our ways aren't separate."
She stared at him in alarm. "Malfoy, what are you up to?"
He merely stood up and gestured towards the door; "Shall we?"
"No we shall not!" she raged, "Why are you here?"
"Why are you here?"
"Stop doing that!"
Malfoy's lip curled. His grey eyes smouldered. "I don't see why I have to explain myself when you won't."
"Fine," Hermione growled, "I'm here for... research."
"So am I."
They glowered at each other over Waxputin's head.
"What are you researching?"
"Sexual enhancement potions."
"It is a well documented fact, Granger, that Rasputin was Russia's greatest love machine."
They blinked at each other over Waxputin's head.
(Her in disbelief, him with defiance.)
"It was a shame how he carried on."
"I don't know what to say."
"Then don't say anything. I much prefer it when you're silent. So..." he walked around Waxputin and offered her his arm, "Shall we?"
The river Malaya Nevka stretched black and still under them.
"So this is the spot, eh," Malfoy mused, "Heave-ho and a ker-splotch!"
"Yes," Hermione answered shortly.
"Well... dive in."
"Excuse me?" she spat, "What about you?"
"Nyet," he drawled, "I'll wait here."
She gaped at him. "You're not much of a gentleman, are you?"
"I am very much a gentleman. Isn't ladies first a very gentlemanlike policy?"
"The gentleman is supposed to follow!"
"I also believe in independent women, Granger."
"You're such a... tosser!" she exclaimed.
He nodded. "It's a very normal, healthy activity for a young man to indulge in."
"Gah!" Hermione huffed. She yanked off her coat and threw it at his face.
Casting a water repellent charm on her clothes, and encasing her head in a bubble, she jumped into the river.
Splish, splosh, squelch, said Hermione's boots as she walked down the deserted street to her hotel. She was in a terrible strop, her limbs hurt, her 1 AM swim had amounted to bugger all, and Draco Malfoy was still tailing her.
"Go. Away," she snarled.
"I have to see you to your hotel, Granger! It's late. I am a gentleman, after all."
"Incidentally, your hair really hasn't improved one bit over the years."
When she was finally inside the lobby, she gave him a look of irate expectancy. "Alright. You've done your bit. Fuck off."
"Malfoy!" she yelled. The young chap at the reception jumped and shot a scowl her way.
"Indoor voice, please, Granger!" Malfoy chided.
"Gah!" She turned away and began stomping up the stairs.
"Is that your new catchphrase?" he asked with pleasant curiosity as he climbed alongside her.
"Stop following me!"
"What a charming little hole this is. Suits you."
He continued to survey their surrounding as they clumped/strolled down the dim corridor leading to Hermione's room. She scrabbled around in her pocket for her keys and quickly pulled open the door.
"Well then, Granger... it's been love–"
She slammed the door in his face.
The next morning dawned bright and chilly, and Hermione sat in the breakfast room nibbling on nutty black bread slathered with raspberry jam. The walls around her were panelled with more Shishkin woodsy scenes.
"Top of the morning to you, Granger!"
She groaned, heavily, only just saving herself from planting her face into her plate.
"No!" she wailed, "Nooooooooooooooo!"
"Wow!" he breathed, "Brilliant Moaning Myrtle impression there. Warrants an Exceeds Expectations, at the very least. Anyhow, what's on our itinerary today?"
"We don't have an itinerary, Malfoy!" Hermione seethed.
"We don't?" he said with surprise, "Well we'd better make one!"
"We are not doing anything! Why won't you leave me alone?!" she whinged.
"Come now. You know we'll be able to accomplish a lot more if we combine our researching skills!"
"You are researching –" she had begun loudly but quickly lowered her voice, "sexual enhancement potions. That's hardly anything I can help you with!"
His eyes became comically large. "What? You... you don't mean you're still a virgin?"
"Good grief," she burst out, "I mean that I am doing important work for the Ministry, and –"
"Sex is important," Malfoy interrupted dogmatically, "Not that you'd know," he added (not quite) under his breath.
She'd had it. Reaching into her purple beaded bag (yes, that same old one you're thinking about,) she pulled out Louse Humbug's (oh FINE, Louis Hamburg's,) brief – thirty pages long and he had the audacity to call it a brief – regarding the case and buried her nose in it.
Malfoy was not deterred. He cheerfully signalled to the waiter and ordered himself some toast and tea.
They wandered from Karavannaya street to Kirochnaja street and finally, to Gorokhovaya street.
Outside house number 64, women in tiny tight dresses and pointy stilettos blew kisses and beckoned to Malfoy.
"Why are we here, Granger?"
"This used to be Rasputin's home."
("Prishel mal'chik," the women crooned.)
"I don't think we're going to find anything in there," Hermione declared.
"I disagree," Malfoy winked at a particularly saucy redhead, "I think this is just the place we'd find out more about Rasputin. He was real great when he had a girl to squeeze."
"Of course you'd think so. Virgin."
Hermione bristled. "You know what? Fine. You go in. Have a grand old time full of ecstasy and fire. I'm leaving."
"Ecstasy and fire?!" he choked, "Oh, Granger!"
He laughed for five full minutes as they stormed/sauntered down tree-lined roads.
"There," he said eventually, pointing at a big blue sign, "We need to go there."
'Pесторан' it said.
"What's that?" Hermione asked in a waspish manner.
"Restaurant. I'm starving."
"Okay," she readily agreed because her stomach was turning in on itself, "Er... you can read the Cyrillic script?"
"Nyet," he answered, "All I know is that that sign says Peck-Toh-Pah, and in my time here I've gleaned that Peck-Toh-Pah means restaurant."
"How long have you been here?" she asked as they sat at a small corner table in the Peck-Toh-Pah.
"Not long enough to have learned the script or the language?"
"I'm a researcher, Granger," he said self-importantly, "I don't have time to learn languages."
She arched an eyebrow. He grinned.
"What do you really do here, Malfoy?"
"That brothel we just saw? I run it."
Hermione nearly spewed water all over the table. "ARE YOU SERIOUS?"
He chuckled, "No."
It was a simple wooden cross surrounded by wilted flowers: Rasputin's grave.
Well, a memorial, really.
"You do know his body... or whatever was in there... was exhumed and burned years ago, right?" Malfoy informed Hermione casually.
"I know," she snapped.
"Then why are we here?"
"I don't know!" she cried in exasperation, "Do you have a better idea?"
"We could go back to your hotel..."
"What – Why –"
He lowered his head and levelled a strange... dangerous... look at her, "...do some research."
For some inexplicable reason, she blushed.
Three hours. It had been three hours since Malfoy had squeezed himself into her cramped room even as she tried to shut him out. Three hours in which she'd tried so hard to focus on her research, and he'd sat on her bed, idly stroking Crookshanks who'd curled up beside him.
The treacherous beast.
Also, Malfoy was humming. It was intolerably annoying, and in Hermione's head, the demand to do something about this outrageous man became louder and louder.
"Why are you scowling so?"
"I can't believe," Hermione mumbled, "That Crookshanks is so taken with you."
"Pussies love me, Granger. They love it when I stroke them, touch them..."
"Are you jealous?" he asked impishly... fucking unendurably, "Is this not the pussy I should be petting? Ah... shit... forgive me, I forgot. You've never had your pussy pet... don't know what you're missing out on..."
Ooooh, but her blood boiled. He'd come out of nowhere, wormed his way into her assignment, her room, her peace of mind...
It took her just four seconds to make a decision. Then she lunged at him. Crookshanks let out an affronted, enormous yowl and skittered back into his vent.
Malfoy's mouth was hot and soft and immobilised with shock. Tee-hee, how delightful. She ran her tongue along his lower lip and sunk her hands into his silky, shiny, over-bright hair.
He'd set a trap – she was not to blame.
He gasped as she trailed her mouth down his neck, his hands grasped her hips – gloriously tightly – and he moved to flip them over...
"Don't you try to do it," she commanded, and then appended a sarcastic, sultry, husky, "Please."
She sat up, pressing her groin into his, and raked her nails lightly up his chest as she lifted his (ostentatiously expensive looking) jumper off of him.
"Holy fuck," he wheezed.
"Exactly right, Malfoy," she murmured, "You're in for an uplifting spiritual experience."
She would show him exactly how far from a virgin she really was.
Later, over a dinner of Pelmeni and broth, (that they'd ordered via room-service so that they didn't have to bother to dress or get out of bed, etcetera,) Malfoy casually revealed a gargantuan piece of information.
"You know," he drawled, "That Tsar... Nicholas II... he's still around. We should go talk to him." He waited politely while Hermione finished coughing over the bite she'd choked on. "Are you okay? Would you like some water?"
"Sod your water!" Hermione railed, "What the hell do you mean Nicholas II is still around?"
"I mean," he replied calmly as he used his thumb to wipe the tears that had formed in the corner of her eyes, "That he's available to talk to. Perhaps he has some information about Rasputin's whereabouts."
"WHY DID YOU WAIT TWO WHOLE DAYS TO TELL ME THIS?!"
"Gah, Merlin's rod impaling a half-breed spinster! Granger! Never combine that pitch and volume again! Oh, my head...!"
("YOWR!" Crookshanks sent a word of agreement from within the vent.)
She clenched her fists and counted to ten. "Malfoy." she spoke through gritted teeth, "Explain."
"Buggering hell," he was still whinging, massaging his temples, "I'll take you to see him tomorrow. Relax, would you?"
In spite of her burning anger, it was curiosity that she was primarily experiencing. "Is he... a magical portrait?"
"Er, no. The real chap. In the flesh."
"How?!" she gaped, "Even if he hadn't been executed, he would be about... a hundred and thirty eight years old by now!"
Malfoy shrugged, "He must've had a glug of Rasputin's potion."
He continued to leisurely eat, while she gawked at him in astonishment.
"You..." she stuttered, "You... know about the potion."
"What do you do?"
"What do you really do?"
"I am a potato farmer."
She yanked away his nearly empty plate, jumped off bed, and arms akimbo and eyes flashing, she proclaimed, "You are a menace!"
"Damn, you're sexy," he muttered lowly, and pulled her right back into bed.
Malfoy apparated them to a cramped, tarpaulin covered corner of a construction site near Okhotny Ryad tube station. Ducking out from under the sheet to the sound of thick crowds and busy streets, Hermione saw the walls of Kremlin in the near distance. Apparently, the last Emperor of Russia was hidden out in the busiest part of Central Moscow.
They'd taken no more than three steps when a loud howl from their periphery caused them to jump.
"Ah! Sergei!" Malfoy called amiably, "Long time no see!"
The bald, red-faced, very large Sergei did NOT look happy. "You..." he fumed, "YOU!"
"How are you, my good fellow?"
"You bastarrd Brrreetish skoundrrel... I vill kill you!"
All around them, cries erupted: "Eto vor!" "Ostanovi yego!" "Podnimi yego!" "Vor...! VOR!"
Men – hardy, construction-working, heavy machinery wielding men – were charging towards them.
"Fuck," Malfoy swore softly, "Er, Granger... we're going to have to run."
He took hold of her hand and scarpered. Yet again, Hermione found herself in the distressing position of being dragged around by Draco Malfoy.
He was fast, she had to give him that. How she kept up, she'll never know. He wove them through the throng, past fascinating, historical buildings that Hermione ached to stop and examine. The thundering of footsteps and "Vor, vor, vor..." didn't relent.
Blast it all – she'd had enough.
Putting all her weight behind her, Hermione threw herself (and Malfoy in tow) behind the nearest bit of wall. Then, she whipped out her wand and cast rapid, successive confundus charms on all the enraged workers. The effect was instantaneous. They halted in a dead daze, looked around in confusion, and bit by bit, shuffled back to their site.
"Good... thinking... Granger..." Malfoy panted.
"Friends of yours?" she huffed, pressing a hand into her side.
"Yeah. We're great pals. I can recount so many occasions when..."
Malfoy continued to ramble, but Hermione's attention was stolen by the building that loomed before her: Colourful and glinting in the sunlight – St. Basil's Cathedral.
"Wow," she breathed.
"Impressive, isn't it?" Malfoy smiled.
"Yes, I –"
He commandeered her arm – again – and pulled her away.
"No! Wait!" she begged.
"Time's a-ticking, poppet."
He towed her all way to the main Red Square, where, with a flourish, he proclaimed, "Tsar Nicholas II!"
Hermione's blood pressure peaked. Her heart had near-fatal palpitations. Her brain exploded all over the place.
"Malfoy you absolute moron!" she shrieked, "That's not the Tsar!"
He frowned. "What are you talking about? Clearly, it is."
"You idiot! You bloody pillock! You half-wit clod!"
"What the fuck –"
"That's an impersonator! Not the real Tsar! Jesus Christ! I could murder you right now!"
"That's absurd," Malfoy sniffed, "I've seen photographs of the Tsar. That man looks exactly like him."
"DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT IMPERSONATOR MEANS?"
"You're screeching again, Granger. We're in public and in the presence of royalty. Where is your sense of decorum?"
"I'll show you decorum, you... you..."
But yet again again again she found herself being lugged around by the worst person she'd ever known.
"Your Highness," Malfoy pronounced sycophantically, "It is an honour."
Tsar Nicho-less, dapper in his crisp white highly decorated uniform bowed. "Hello, sir, madam. It pleasurrre to meet yourr acquaintance."
Malfoy bowed in return, forcing Hermione down with him. If he didn't stop manhandling her, she'd slap him like she had back in third year.
"Sire," Malfoy continued, "We seek your assistance in a very important mission..."
"How may I help you?"
"We are looking for the Holy Healer, Rasputin."
"Oh," Nicho-less said looking around the square, "Oh. He not here today. I belief he had a... how you say... prrrostate examination..."
Malfoy's face scrunched up. "Eh. That's unfortunate."
"Vould you like to take photo vith me?" Nicho-less beamed.
"Yes!" ... "No, thank you."
Hermione backed away as Malfoy brightly hopped over to Nicho-less's side.
She jumped and spun around and came face to face with Vladimir Lenon holding out a rose.
"Er, thank you," she blinked.
"You arrre English? Luffly, luffly..."
Suddenly, Joseph Stalin pushed forward, shoving Lenin out of the way. "Exkuse my stupid komrade, madam. Kome to me... vould you like photo?"
She stared between the little man and the large man, marvelling at their respective, distinctive facial hair. "Um," she said once more.
"Go avay you stupid pig! I vas herrre first."
"Lady does not vant you!"
A mob gathered around as two of the most famous revolutionaries ever engaged in a vicious fist fight in the heart of the Kremlin.
"Would you look at that?" Malfoy ambled over and whistled softly, "Big time world leaders fighting over Hermione Granger."
He looked so highly amused. Hermione groaned, and buried her face in her hands.
They were back in her hotel room and she was judiciously ignoring him. He was making it unnecessarily challenging by continuously kicking that back of her chair as he whiled away the time she spent perusing her notes for the four hundredth time.
She ignored him.
She ignored him.
"Go on. Listen to teacher."
"You'd make a terrible teacher."
"I would be an excellent one. The kind of teacher women would desire."
"For fuck's sake. You aren't making any headway pouring over those scraps. Instead, you could give me some head... way. I promise to return the favour. It'll be so much more satisfying than what you're currently doing."
Well. He had a point.
Malfoy lay against the headboard with his arms behind his head. Leaning against his bent knee, Hermione openly admired the planes of his naked torso... it was a rather nice torso; slender but subtly defined. She liked his torso.
"My eyes are up here, Granger."
She looked up and his eyes were twinkling with delight. (They were really, really rather nice too.)
"So listen," he went on, "You know how the Ministry back home keeps the muggle Prime Minister in, as you say, the loop?"
"D'you think we should go talk to the muggle Russian... leader...?"
"Right. The President. Maybe he'll know something... Maybe he'll give us access to some classified information."
Aghast, Hermione shook her head a little madly. "No. Bad idea."
"Well, we're British. Go try approaching him, and you'll find yourself in a high security prison for the rest of your life. And even if that doesn't happen... you really do NOT want to tell Vladimir Putin about a potion that could grant him immortality and eternal youth. Oh god. Look, Malfoy, if there's anyone who could assume the mantle of the next Dark Lord... it's him."
"Seriously?" Malfoy looked doubtful, "He doesn't even have magic."
Hermione clicked her tongue. "Doesn't need it. Although, sometimes I wonder..."
"Okaaaaay," he agreed slowly, "Bad idea."
Malfoy slept and Hermione hurriedly flipped through her Russian-to-English pocket dictionary. There was one word that just wouldn't stop echoing in her head.
Why had she agreed to this?
Oh right; because Malfoy had promised her a day of cultural immersion. She should have known his idea of... that... would be to soak up every single drop of Vodka in the city. At one in the afternoon.
They were in one of those hole-in-the-wall, dim, and atmospherically squalid bars – the kind of place where the young Raskolnikov might have had his first meeting with the drunken Marmeladov.
"There we are," Malfoy cheered as the bartender placed two squat glasses before them, "Bottoms up!" He knocked back the whole lot and emerged hacking and gasping – "Salazar's Scrotum, that's some strong shit! Another, my good man!"
Hermione took a tiny sip from her own glass – good god, it really was strong – and aimed a glare at her companion.
"I really hate you."
"You don't," he grinned, "You actually fancy me terribly."
That made something flutter tragically in her stomach and she really, really wanted to punch him.
"I want to leave," she said instead.
"In the middle of our project?" he asked in outrage, "What kind of researcher are you?"
"A REAL ONE."
"Oh dear. Screech any higher and all the bottles here will shatter."
"I. Want. To. Leave."
"Can't. Sorry. We must see this through. Cultural immersion, Granger, you agreed to this."
"I thought you meant we'd go to the Hermitage or something!" she exclaimed.
"Oh," he tapped his chin thoughtfully, "That's a great idea. We'll do that tomorrow."
She downed all the vodka in her glass and turned away from him. Her insides were on fire, her eyes were leaking, but she found that easier to deal with than Malfoy.
"Hello," said the skinny, bearded man on the bar stool on the other side of her, "I yem Dmitry. Kan I buy you drink, prretty lady?"
"Are you talking to my wife, sir?" Malfoy demanded with all the fury and indignation of a man slighted, "If this were the age of Pushkin, I'd have challenged you to a duel!"
"Sorrry," muttered Dmitry, and turned away.
Malfoy's hand was on her leg, hot and large and spanning the width of her thigh.
"I really do hate you," she grumbled.
"Aw, wifey," he spoke into her ear, (his lips brushed... tantalisingly... against the shell of it,) "Be nice. Just wait till I get proper pissed. The cossack I dance... really wunderbar."
"Malfoy! Malfoy!" She shook his sleeping form manically, "Wake up! Malfoy!"
He was sprawled on his stomach across her narrow bed, face pressed into the pillow. "Wha–uh," he mumbled thickly.
"Uhhhh," he moaned, "louuuud."
("Yowwwwrrrr," in the background.)
Abruptly, Hermione found herself on her back with a sleep-warm Malfoy on top of her.
"Ooof! Get off!"
"Hmmm," he hummed into her neck. Then he began trailing kisses across her collarbone.
"Listen... uh... Mmm – Mmm – ah – Mmmalfoy. I've," she sighed, "Had an epiphany."
"Do tell," he whispered as his hand slipped inside her shirt and stroked the lace cups of her bra.
"The Koschka catacombs... under... under... oh yesssss... the Hermitage... they were used t-t-t-t-o-o store artwork during... the siege of Lenin...grad..."
He licked a circle around her bellybutton, "Go on..."
"...yes... um... it's home to hundreds of cats now... but there are lots of unexplored... OH."
Seconds later, Malfoy pulled away.
"Wha – why'd you stop?!"
"Because you did," he said with an arched brow.
"You can't just...!"
"Finish what you were saying. Unexplored...?"
"Ugh. Right. Lots of unexplored corners – oh god YES – that might be a good place to mmm stay hidden and and... No doubt that Ra-Ra-Rasputin... lots of... fuck fuck fuck... charms..."
"Brilliant supposition, Granger."
Meow, Yowwwrr, Hisssss, Purrrr
The Cat Orchestra of Saint Petersburg (TM).
"Unbelievable," Malfoy said, looking a little scared.
"Well, this place is officially called The Cat Republic," Hermione smiled. Crookshanks would've loved it here. Too bad the sulky old thing refused to budge from inside the vent.
The place was teeming – it was a veritable feline infestation. Black cats, tabby cats, white cats, spotted cats, fat cats, lean cats...
Meow, Yowwwrr, Hisssss, Purrrrrrrrrrrr
Hermione and Malfoy wandered up and down the labyrinthine corridors, tapping their wands against the brick walls and large heating pipes.
The deeper they walked, the softer the cat sounds got.
Eventually, all sounds save for their own footfalls and a rhythmic drip drip drip, faded away. The area they found themselves in was not well lit like the rest of the basement had been. A current of sort travelled across Hermione's skin.
"Did you feel that?" she whispered breathlessly.
"Yes," Malfoy confirmed, "Definitely magic."
Deeper and deeper they traversed. Somewhere along the way, their hands had found each other.
Drip drip drip.
"Lumos," Malfoy whispered; Hermione squeezed his fingers in thanks. Freshly formed shadows enhanced the eeriness of their surroundings.
"Alix? Eto ty, moy pitomets?"
They both yelled and jumped about eighteen feet in the air. Then they froze.
Drip drip drip.
"Kto eto? KTO ZDES?" came a deep voice from the shadows ahead.
Drip drip drip and Hermione cleared her throat. "Um... hello?"
Silence; drip drip drip.
"Do you speak English?" Malfoy ventured, "We um... come in peace."
For all mankind, Hermione thought, and had to bite back a hysterical laugh.
Drip drip drip.
"Da. Ah... Yes, I speak English. Who arrrre you?"
"Draco Malfoy. And Hermione Granger. We have travelled from far to seek an audience with the great and mighty Grigori Rasputin."
"Grrreetings, Drrraco Malfoy and Herrrmione Grrranger. Yourrr quest has kome to end, forrr it is I... Rrrrasputin! Arrrrghh!"
He emerged from the gloom with great dramatic showmanship. Swaddled in long purple robes, he was just as old photographs had shown him to be – frighteningly tall, broad shouldered, with a rippling dark beard and intense blue eyes.
"Hullo, old chap," Malfoy quipped with a small wave.
"I YEM NOT OLD!" he bellowed.
"Right, many apologies," Malfoy winced, "We were just –"
"Have you seen my kat? My little Alix. Have you seen?"
"Er, no, sorry," Hermione said.
Rasputin looked her up and down slowly, while... bloody hell... licking his lips.
"Nice girrrl, you arrre. Have you kome forrr interrrkourse?"
"Definitely not!" Both Hermione and Malfoy exclaimed with revulsion; he rushed to stand in front of her like a human shield.
Rasputin took a step forward, and – SNAP – one of his calves cracked in half.
"AHHHH!" said Hermione and "AHHHH!" said Malfoy, and "AHHHHH!" roared Rasputin.
"Proklyatiye!" the Mad Monk spat, "Not again! Everrry time I trrry to valk... Chert! Krovavoye proklyatiye!"
"Um," Hermione and Malfoy exchanged a very disturbed look, "Are you okay Mr. Rasputin?"
"I am fine. Zis happens... side-effect of potion. But it small inkonvenience. Rrrreparrro kan fix." He took another step forward and – crick – his ankle shattered.
"Dear Merlin," Malfoy choked.
"So prrretty vun... interrrkourrrse? I vill show why zey kall me Rrrussia's grrreatest love machine! Arrrrghh!"
("Told you," Malfoy muttered.)
Rasputin threw off his robes.
And also, one of his arms. It went flying and crashed against a pipe with a hollow thunk.
"Oh my god oh my god oh my god," Hermione whimpered. Then she looked at his body and nearly threw up. There wasn't an inch of skin that wasn't scarred, cleaved, or discoloured. And worst of all, was his penis: Purple, swollen, and very, very erect.
Dragging his stumpy leg along, Rasputin took one more step towards them...
His penis fell off. Thud.
"FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK," Malfoy howled, and dived behind her; Now Hermione was the human shield. "DID YOU SEE THAT? IT FELL OFF. FUCK SHIT FUUUCK! IT FELL OFF."
He had a vice-like grip around her. She struggled to shake him off, "Yes – it was hard to miss –"
"NYET! DER'MO! CHERT!" roared Rasputin, "NE SNOVA. NYET! ...NYET! PODOZHDITE! VAIT! MOLODAYA ZHENSHCHINA! NO. YOUNG VOMAN, PRRRRETTY LADY! VAIT!"
Malfoy had (but of course) taken her by the hand and begun to run. But she really couldn't hold it against him this time.
They sprinted through the underground chambers and gradually slowed as things went from dark to cat.
Meow, Yowwwrr, Hisssss, Purrrr
"Granger," Malfoy rasped faintly, "Granger."
"I know," she whispered, holding his hand tighter still, "I know."
Sitting atop the boundary wall of The Peter and Paul Fortress was like being perched at the edge of the world. All around them, the Neva river swelled, full of little reflected stars.
Malfoy took a huge gulp from the bottle of vodka they'd been passing between themselves, before handing it back to her.
"I am never going to stop having nightmares about this," he declared, "The Dark Lord, Bellatrix, Dementors, were nothing compared to this. His cock fell off. It literally just –"
"I was there too, Malfoy," she sniped, wrinkling her nose as pungent vodka travelled down her throat.
"What if you'd let him shag you?"
"I WOULD NEVER –"
"SHHH. But what if?!"
Hermione could feel herself turning green. "I would never, ever, ever –"
"What if it had fallen off inside you?"
"I will throw you into the river, I swear –"
"That doesn't sound so bad, though," he said ponderingly, "Buried forever in your sweet –"
He laughed. "Well. This certainly has doused all my desire to ever sample his great potion. What a shame."
"You... wanted to drink it?!" she gasped.
"I don't know," he shrugged, "Maybe?"
"You... want to be immortal?"
He merely shrugged again.
"Okay that's it, Malfoy. What the hell are you up to? Why are you here?"
She fisted the collar of his shirt and yanked his head down to her level. "Stop it. Tell me what you're really doing here."
He stared into her eyes with his molten starlight ones and smiled. "I run a Progrebin circus. That potion was for my star act."
She felt every word he spoke as a soft rush of air against her lips. "I really hate you," she murmured.
"No, you don't," he whispered back, smile widening into a full – and damn it charming – grin.
"You remember those construction workers at the Kremlin?" she asked, her gaze still fixed on his mouth.
"They were calling you 'Vor'..."
"Hmm." He gently pushed her hair away from her face.
She shivered. "Yes. And I looked it up. It means... thief."
"Does it really?" he laughed, "Oh, those Russians!"