I am so, so sorry for not updating earlier. What I have to blame is a computer failure and the loss of a beta-reader. Both problems are now solved thanks to sheer luck and my current beta reader Emma (cookies for you).
Thanks to all of you reviewing my story, it keeps me going.
Anyways, on to the story. Enjoy!
It was the day with the big D, or at least that was what most of Hogwarts students thought. The Winter Ball was in less than ten hours and the school was filled with the scents of various kinds of perfumes, beautifying potions and miraculous 'make your hair shine' shampoos.
Since it was Saturday no classes were keeping the students from obsessing about the upcoming event, and particularly one red-haired Gryffindor was obsessing very much.
Eleven o' clock in the morning Hermione entered the Gryffindor common room with Harry and Ron supporting her. Madam Pomfrey had reluctantly let her go after being pleaded by Harry and Ron for almost half an hour. Hermione had personally not protested much when the medi-witch tried to keep her in bed since it was the perfect excuse to not have to go to the ball. But for some reason Madam Pomfrey softened and allowed her to leave the hospital wing with the promise that she would come back if she didn't feel well.
Before they entered through the portrait hole Ron turned to face her, "Prepare to be attacked."
"Attacked?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah, Gin is completely insane. Asked her before if something was wrong and she threw a book at me and told me to bugger off."
"And exactly how is that different from what she usually does?" Hermione asked with an amused look. Brother and sister Weasley loved each other very much, but still fought quite a lot.
"Well…it's the glint in her eyes…like she's about to blow up or something. I'm telling you, it's scary," Ron said, actually looking seriously scared.
Hermione chuckled, "Living in a house full of boys has really taken a toll on you, hasn't it? She's probably just nervous for the ball. Now come on." With Ron grumbling something about all the lethal women in the world they made their way through the portrait hole.
Inside they found everything but a raging Ginny. The young woman in question was sitting in an armchair looking completely miserable. Beside the fireplace she had enchanted a table into a gigantic mirror, which at the time was more like a thousand small pieces of a mirror.
"That's seven years of bad luck you know," Ron said, looking over at the broken mirror.
"Didn't I tell you to bugger off half an hour ago? What exactly gave you the idea that you would be welcome to return?" his sister snarled without looking at him. Both Ron and Harry winced. They knew better than to push their luck when Ginny was mad.
Hermione turned to Harry with a smile, "Hey guys, why don't you two go and make up arrangements with your dates for tonight and I'll take care of this," she said, inclining her head towards Ginny who sat in the chair looking very much like a thunder cloud.
"Fine with me, but shouldn't you rest? I mean, you need to be all ready for the ball tonight," Harry said and winked at her, "And you still haven't told us who your date is."
"Harry, as I have tried to tell you, I don't have a date. I'm not attending the ball tonight."
Hermione said, looking down at her feet. She had decided several days ago that she would skip the ball. Social events were not the most tempting thing at the moment. Ron was about to protest, but Harry silenced him. Taking Hermione by the hand he pulled her away from the others.
Taking her chin in his hand he forced he to look at him. "'Mione, what is the matter? You've been acting strange the past few weeks and I've tried to figure out what's wrong, but I can't. It can't be something as simple as schoolwork keeping you. It's obvious that it's something bigger." Not letting her eyes escape he nailed her with a look filled with concern and care.
"Why don't you talk to me anymore, Hermione? Why don't you come to me when something is wrong? You're my friend and I love you to death, no matter what, Hermione. No matter how much you screw up I will always be there for you. Please tell me you know that."
"I know, Harry, I know," Hermione whispered softly, "I know you love me, and I love you. But right know I can't… I just can't tell you." As she spoke, tears started to well up in her eyes threatening to escape down her cheeks. Silently Harry pulled her towards him and wrapped his arms around her.
"It's okay to cry, ´Mione. No one will hold it against you. You don't always have to be the strong one, let me pick up your pieces sometimes too."
For a moment she was about to tell him everything. Everything about how she had kissed Lucius Malfoy, ended up sharing a bed with him and then being told none of it meant anything to him. The tears were so close and her voice was barely audible when she finally managed to push back the urge to tell Harry everything.
"Not this time, Harry. It's not worth the luxury of a breakdown. It will pass in time, I promise. And when I need someone to pick up my pieces you will be the first to know, okay?" she whispered with a sad smile and squeezed his hand before turning her back to him.
For the first time in a very long while the boy who lived felt helpless. Very helpless. He wanted nothing more than to help Hermione. She was his best friend and had helped him countless times over the years, but never really allowed him to help her and be a shoulder to cry on.
Despite what everyone thought she was extremely reserved, hardly letting anyone close. Harry had lost count how many times he had watched her swallow her own tears to comfort someone else. Sure, Ron was his friend to, but not in the same way as Hermione was. Their feelings had never gone further than friendship, but their friendship was special. What they had was more of a friendship of the soul. Harry sighed. All he could do was hope that she really would come to him when she needed him, because god knows she had been there for him.
In her room Hermione slammed the door shut and leaned heavily against it. She had been so close. So close to telling Harry everything. Would this be one of those major screw-ups that he would help her through? She snorted. It was not very likely that Harry would ever talk to her again if he knew. The growing relationship between Draco and Ginny had been hard enough for him to accept, so exactly what would happen if he knew that Hermione had been involved with Malfoy senior.
'Oh, my god, my life is like a bad TV-show,' Hermione thought tiredly and tried to compose herself the best she could. She had to go downstairs again to see to Ginny's ball-troubles and hopefully neither she, Harry or Ron would ask any question about her sudden escape just a few moments ago. Taking a deep breath she opened the door and walked downstairs, finding Ginny standing in front of the now fixed mirror, changing her jeans and t-shirt into different ball gowns.
"Oh, there you are. I was wondering where you were. How are you feeling?" Ginny asked, pausing what she was doing.
"I'll live. So how's it going with the dresses?"
"It's not going at all. It's hopeless!"
"Can't be that bad; let me see some of them."
"Okay, I'm down to three suggestions," Ginny said and pointed her wand at her self.
"First this one," she said and her clothes changed into a white, glittery gown with sleek features.
"It's pretty, but it's not really you," Hermione said, eyeing the glittery piece of clothing. It kind of looked like something Pansy Parkinson would wear, only more modest.
"Okay, then there is this one." The white gown was replaced by a pale blue gown with a puffy skirt and a short sleeved top with white embroidered flowers scattered across the blue fabric.
"It's, uh, a bit…frilly, don't you think?"
"Okay, it's ugly, but I'm desperate."
"Just show me the last one. I'm sure it's better than this."
"Sure. I actually saved the best for last. What do you think of this one?" Ginny was now wearing an emerald green, sleeveless, two-part dress. The skirt was long enough for the hems of it to grace the floor softly as Ginny moved. The top was a corset inspired one with thin silvery white embroideries decorating it and glittered softly in the dim light of the fireplace crackling behind them.
"Oh my god, Ginny, you look amazing!" Hermione praised, ordering her friend to twirl around.
"Thanks, 'Mione. I was thinking that I could go with white gloves and something white in my hair to follow the rule you know."
"Good idea. Malfoy junior is a very lucky guy. Just make sure he treats you good," Hermione said, looking at her friend seriously.
"Of course, I would never let a guy treat me like… Wait a minute…"
"What?" Hermione asked, eying her friend causally.
"That is what all this is about, isn't it? You suddenly ending up in the hospital wing and then being all sad and broody," Ginny said, fixing Hermione with wondering look.
"I don't know what you mean," Hermione said quietly and turned her face away.
"Don't hide it, Hermione, you don't have to. All this is about Lucius, isn't it? Something happened three days ago, didn't it?"
"Look, talking about what happened won't make it any better. I was wrong when I believed he…" She paused. What was it that she had believed? That Lucius Malfoy was going to fall down to his knees confessing his undying love? Not really, right? "I screwed up, okay? I've now had my fair share of teenage mistakes as they so poetically call them. So let's just leave it there."
Hermione felt Ginny's eyes bore into her back as she turned around and gazed into the fireplace. She knew that her friend wouldn't buy into such bad explanations for much longer, but hopefully she would get the point and leave the matter be for now.
Hermione had no idea what it was that hurt anymore. Her mind was a mess, different kind of emotions blurring her thoughts whatever she tried to do. She turned to leave again, even though she knew Ginny was hurt by her hardness and for not wanting to confide in her.
As she walked towards the stairs to her room Ginny spoke up, "'Mione, would you do one thing for me?"
"Please come to the ball. If not for you, then come for me. I don't think you should be alone right now."
Hermione sighed. Maybe Ginny was right. Being at the ball would maybe be better than sitting in her room, moping around all night.
"Fine, I'll go, but only because you asked me to."
"That's good enough," Ginny said and smiled, "But I have to go and take a bath and fix myself up now, so I'll see you tonight." Hermione nodded and watched her friend disappear up the stairs to the girls' dormitories.
Agreeing to attend the ball probably wasn't the thing she should have done, but somewhere she knew Ginny was right. Being alone and going over the events in her head over and over again wouldn't do much good, so she could just as well dress up in a pretty dress and pretend to be happy for a while. Speaking of which, she should try to find something to wear if she was to be finished by tonight.
Four hours later Hermione stood in front of the full length mirror in her room, watching her reflection. Not that bad for having spent 3 days in the hospital wing. Her hair was swept up in a simple way with some curls framing her face in a rather flattering way. She had transformed one of her school robes into a snow-white silk gown with a halter neck model. Her back was almost completely bare and the fabric was falling in soft folds resting on the small of her back. Her reflection smiled slyly.
"Nice, that will turn some heads. Go knock 'em dead, girl." Hermione smiled and shook her head. At least her reflection was cheery.
She debated if she should wear gloves, but decided against it. Ball gloves were, after all, horribly warm. Snatching up the large white shawl, wrapping it around her shoulders, she was just about to leave the room when something caught her eye. On a table beside the door the necklace from Lucius rested beside a vase filled with white roses.
Hermione stared blankly at the display; those hadn't been there when she entered the room. With her mouth pursed into a thin line she grabbed the roses, ignoring the thorns pricking her fingers, and walked to the window. Throwing them out into the cold air she watched the roses fall onto the snowy ground. When the roses hit the ground Hermione's world suddenly turned white. For a few moments pictures flashed in front of her. Blood, lots of blood, screams, hundreds of people in pain screaming for mercy. A pair of grey eyes flashing past and then nothing more. Hermione was on her knees, gripping the windowsill tightly.
"No more of this, no more of this," she croaked as she straightened herself up and closed the window firmly. On the ground below snow fell on a pile of white roses, burying them and leaving no trace of the pain and misery they brought.
Upon reaching the great hall, Hermione had composed herself enough to be able to smile to Harry, Ron and Ginny as they showed up with their dates.
"Glad you could make it," Ginny said warmly with her arm linked around Draco's and entered the ballroom.
Both Harry and Ron commented on Hermione's good looks and received less than appreciative glares from each date. Trying to make herself as invisible as possible, Hermione walked into the great hall, already wanting to leave.
Making her way through the crowd she suddenly froze. Less then ten steps in front of her was Lucius Malfoy. He was standing with his back to her so she was yet undetected. She started to back up carefully but accidentally bumped into Dobby who was carrying a tray of drinks.
"Miss Granger! Have a drink. They are really good, a Muggle sort of thing…Cha…Cha…Champing!" Dobby said happily, thrusting the tray towards Hermione. Before she had the chance to say anything someone offered her a glass.
"It is champagne, you foolish little prick. And it is quite tasty, Miss Granger." Hermione almost choked there and then. Beside her Lucius Malfoy was standing, dressed in fashionable black robes and hair tied back with a black silk ribbon.
"No thank you, Mr Malfoy. It does surprise me though, I thought the only thing Muggles did well were music and divorces." With an ice cold glare she turned and walked in the opposite direction. With a silent laugh he followed her through the crowd.
"Fair enough, music, divorces and liquor then. But please, Hermione, be reasonable and don't run away from me. It is quite rude not looking at someone while they talk." Hermione stopped dead and Lucius almost crashed into her. Slowly she turned and stared at him hatefully.
"Rude? You are telling me that I am rude? You were the one using me. You were the one who crushed me between your fingers when I had saved your life!" she was talking in a deadly clam voice, "You out of all people will not tell me that I am rude!" she spat and turned away from him once again to leave, but this time he was faster. Catching her by the arm he pulled her away to a dark corner.
"If you would just listen to me for five minutes and let me explain," he snapped, looking down at the girl who was staring rebelliously at him. She was indeed very beautiful with her face flushed in anger, but it was probably not the right time to tell her that.
Hermione stared at Lucius for a while then nodded. "Fine then, fire away. Tell my why you did what you did."
"I did what I did because I had to. I had to know how you would react if I rejected you."
"And why would that be? Do you have some kind of sick perversion that makes you want to reject people just to see their reaction?"
"Oh, if you only knew my perversions," he mumbled under his breath, making Hermione squirm unwillingly, "But that will have to wait until later, because now I have to talk about far more serious things."
"Like what?" Hermione said, eyeing the blond suspiciously. She wouldn't allow herself to let her guard down for a second before she knew what he was after.
"Dance with me, will you, Miss Granger?" Lucius asked with a sly smile and pulled her over to the dance floor, where hundreds of couples were already dancing to soft, cheery winter tunes. As the pair reached the dance floor the song switched and symphony-like tunes floated through the hall.
Someone is dancing
On my grave
Down my spine
I hear a laugh,
it awoke my soul
The wind takes the leafs
where he wants them to go
His tunes enchant our world,
our thoughts and leave us frozen
In this heart of mine,
It's you I find
Take my hand,
I'll take you to the promised land,
you're the one
I hear a laugh,
it awoke my soul,
The wind takes the leafs
where he wants them to go
His tunes, enchant our world,
our thoughts, and leave us frozen
Take my hand,
I'll take you to the Promised Land . . .
Hermione shivered as she felt the words pierce her soul. All this was insanity. Why was she there in his arms when she had promised herself not to let him touch her again? Yet, there she was, in the middle of the Great Hall, among hundreds of students looking at them, and melting into a warm puddle under his touch.
It was like she couldn't help herself, his touch was addictive. Everything about this man was addictive. His hands, his eyes, his voice, his scent…the light scent of musk that made her dizzy every time she inhaled it.
"This probably isn't the smartest thing to do. People are watching you know," Hermione said, referring to the people around them who cast suspicious looks at them every now and then.
"At least it will keep them from listening to what I have to say."
"And what would that be?"
"Before I tell you I need you to promise that you won't interrupt me whatever I say. This is of grave importance and I will not repeat it." Hermione nodded slowly, observing her dance partner. He was looking at her with mixed emotions in his eyes. Mostly showing was the usual cold hardness, but there were hints of seriousness and perhaps worry too.
"When you asked why I even talked to you that evening in the library I gave you numerous reasons. However, none of them were completely correct." Seeing Hermione's eyes widen and her mouth open to snap at him, Lucius quickly went on. "I told you to listen and not speak," he said sharply, "The reason why I approached you in the first place was because I was ordered to."
Carefully weighing his next words not wanting to cause a scene Lucius continued, "Some weeks ago I was approached by the Dark Lord, to whom I am an official ally, which I assume you know. He asked me to follow up his latest plan on how to kill off the Potter-brat. The original idea was to have Severus seduce you, gain your confidence and by that, winning you over to the dark side, which would not only result in a very powerful ally, but also a very effective way to get to Potter.
"As far as your heritage was concerned, the Dark Lord was willing to overlook it due to your magical abilities. Having Severus seduce you would, however, have caused some problems since he is still your teacher. So the mission was therefore reassigned to me."
Hermione looked up at him coldly. "So basically you lot think that I'm that much of a thickhead that I eventually wouldn't start wondering what was going on?"
"Love can make you do the strangest things." Fixing her with his eyes, grey and pale as the moon, he stopped dancing and held her hands in his. Transfixed with his stare Hermione squirmed unwillingly. It was impossible to escape this man. She tried so hard to be cold and brush him off, but every time she floated away in a dream world where nothing else but them existed.
'Damn it, Hermione,' she scolded herself inwardly, 'don't let him get to you.
You're already way deeper in this than you should be.' Whilst one part of her tried to do the reasonable thing and walk away, another part of her wailed in agony and clawed to Lucius like her life depended on it. Pulling herself together she backed away from him and his hands.
"And why would you tell me your plan about how to get to me, Mr Malfoy?
Isn't that rather stupid of you, considering that I can use this to my advantage and get you… shall we say, out of the picture?"
"First of all, Hermione, you wouldn't be able to do that," he said in a low voice, smirking as he approached her again. "And as for the why…because I intend to help you instead of handing you over to the Dark Lord."
"Yeah right, since you care so much for me," she snorted and pulled away, trying to move past him.
"Yes, because I care about you. I thought I made it clear that my words were just meant to test the grounds, no more."
"No, no. No more. This is it; I will not let you get to me again so please just leave me alone!" Hermione snarled and pushed him aside, almost running out of the ballroom.
Lucius gave her back a frustrated glare. Damn it, why wouldn't she see that he was her only way out of this? No matter what she did the Dark Lord would get her. If she didn't allow him to help her, then he could keep her out of reach, at least for a while.
He was surprised that she had been so hurt by his words. Of course he had expected her to react in some way, but not this much. His feelings for her were beginning to be hard to deny and he had hoped that she would provide an easy way out, but her current state of mind changed everything. She was obviously hurt by him rejecting her, which would mean that she cared for him. But what did he feel?
"A thousand Galleons to the person who can answer that question," he muttered and started moving towards where Hermione had disappeared. Why and what he felt had to be dealt with later, what he had to do now was find Hermione.
The young woman in question was standing outside the main doors of Hogwarts staring out over the grounds. Occasional giggles could be heard from a mass of bushes beside the doors, where students were occupied with various nightly activities. How simple it would have been if she had fallen for a boy her own age and been one of those couples fooling around in the bushes. Instead she and Lucius Malfoy had to be star-crossed lovers.
Hermione shuddered slightly. She had no idea what she felt anymore, everything was too confusing. Hate merged with anger, longing and love. Love? Did she love him? Who knew, Merlin knows she didn't. She had no clue what was going on in her heart, it seemed to rise above her understanding. A hand on her shoulder brought her from her thoughts back to reality.
"Please don't be so angry with me," the familiar voice pleaded softly, "I don't want you to hate me, Hermione. Please don't hate me for what I did. Merlin knows I regret it."
"How do I know you mean what you say?" she asked quietly, her voice somewhat shaky.
"Look at me, love." She turned around, finding herself close to Lucius, staring into his eyes. Bringing one hand to hold hers, he slowly brought up the other to her face, softly stroking her cheek. "I don't know why, but your eyes, your lips. Your very essence is haunting me, Hermione. Whenever I close my eyes all I see is you. When you hurt, I hurt…there is something about you which clings to me, bores into me like thorns until I have no idea what's going on."
Hermione stared at him, 'When you hurt, I hurt'…The prophecy, the angel and the devil.
Slowly he let go of her and brought his hands to her neck and with a soft 'pop' the necklace with the rose appeared in his hands. Fastening it around her neck, he gave her a soft smile. A very rare smile from Lucius Malfoy.
"All I can do is give you my word that with me you will be safe. At this moment I'm afraid there is no other option for you than to trust me if you don't wish to end up in the hands of the Dark Lord." Fingering the necklace slowly he continued, "I'm sure you've figured out what this does. That you can see me through it at times. Why this happened I'm not quite sure. All I did was charm the rose into the glass and connected it to this," he pulled out a chain with a small silver plate fastened to it. On it a rose was engraved. "Something happened during the spell, creating a much stronger connection than intended."
"The prophecy," she mumbled.
"What?" he asked, not having heard what she said.
"Nothing, never mind…what would happen if I decided to trust you and allow you to 'protect' me?"
"I will bring you with me to my mansion and keep you there until its safer, distracting the Dark Lord with some sort of manoeuvre."
"You know that is a high risk project, don't you? Eventually he will make me go to him."
"Not if I can stop it," he said passionately. There was no way Voldemort would get Hermione, not as long as it could be prevented.
"What will you do then? Do you have anything that can keep me from him?"
"If I hold you at my mansion long enough under the story that I want you to myself to play with for a while, giving him small pieces of info, he will be happy long enough for us to think of something better."
"You don't expect me to give up secrets about Harry and the Order, do you?" she asked wide-eyed, pulling away a bit.
"Of course not, just some small pieces of false information that seems believable enough, which of course have to be discussed with professor Dumbledore."
Hermione stared at him with disbelief. Was he talking about betraying Voldemort? Why would he do that?
"I sense your questions," he said with a soft sigh, walking past her. "Why would I betray Lord Voldemort, being his most loyal servant?
"Well, first of all I really don't support him to such an extent that I am dependent on him. I prefer to keep to the side which currently seems to be winning. And honestly, Voldemort and his followers are moving downhill. He will need a while to gather up to full strength after the last months of temporary failure. Acting in the right moment could make him easy to bring down."
"Would you do that, bring him down and fight for the other side?"
"If I have to, yes I would."
Hermione sighed. Things weren't exactly getting less complicated. She knew that he was a man always thinking about his own welfare, so it wasn't that strange that he would consider switching sides if he had to. It was just an overwhelming thought.
"If I do agree to come with you, would you promise me something?"
"Anything you want, my pet, anything you want," he smirked, turning around and walked up to her.
"Don't lie to me. Promise me that you will tell me everything."
Taking her small hands between his he looked at her with a sincere expression. "I can't promise you that I will tell you everything; that would put both of us in incredible danger. However I can promise you that I'll never lie to you. I will not tell you everything, but whatever you ask I promise to either answer truthfully or not at all."
She nodded. "I can accept that. At the moment I don't know what I feel for you, but I know that for some reason I can't make you leave my thoughts and that makes me believe I should trust you."
"So you will come with me?" Against his will Lucius' eyes lit up and Hermione's heart melted. She couldn't rid herself of this man. Her heart wouldn't let her.
"I will. But I need to see professor Dumbledore first."
"Of course," he nodded. Taking out his wand he charmed a handkerchief into a Portkey.
"This Portkey will be working between noon and seven o'clock tomorrow night and will bring you directly to my mansion. Speak to Dumbledore before you go and tell him I will come and see him the following day."
Hermione nodded, putting the Portkey in a hidden pocket in the dress.
"I will await your return to me, sweet Hermione," he said, giving her a chaste kiss and then he was gone with a small 'poof'.
'So much for the non-Apparating rule at Hogwarts,' Hermione thought, slowly walking back to the castle, the feeling of his lips on hers burning like fire.
A/N: Well thats it for this time. I will do my best to update as soon as I can. Thank you for reading this far and please review and tell me what you think