Hermione felt terribly groggy as she struggled to surface from sleep. Her body ached terribly; her breasts were tender and the nagging lower back ache that had troubled her for the last week obviously hadn't resolved itself yet. Her eyelids felt crusty and dry as she cracked them open. She shifted her body to push herself up and the covers on the bed dropped away.

Hermione shook her head at the feel of sheets slipping off of her body. What was she doing nude in her bed? She always slept in a nightgown, flannel with pretty ruffles, and perfect for the ever chilly Gryffindor Tower. Something wasn't right here. The room looked strange.

Her pupils enlarged with fear as she started to look wildly around. This wasn't her room. Where was she?

Hermione clutched the silk sheets to her breasts and dragged them with her as she staggered out of the large four poster bed.

The room was large and without a fireplace. The walls themselves were a dark wood. Perhaps mahogany? There was a writing desk and chair with parchment, ink and quills in one corner as well as a wardrobe opposite it. Scattered about the room in a seemingly random placement was a large grey sofa as well as two masculine club chairs. Her toes gripped a thick Persian rug that covered most of the floor in the room.

'What on earth is going on?' she thought.

Her head ached as if she'd indulged in a bout of drinking. But she never consumed alcohol. Not even recently when the opportunity had presented itself, when the Gryffindor boys one weekend had managed to wrangle a bottle of firewhiskey from a friend in Hogsmeade. She'd refused all attempts to inveigle her into trying a sip.

She squinted and thought back to…yes…late yesterday afternoon. She'd been walking back from the village on the student's Hogsmeade weekend. Ron and Harry had decided to stay a little longer but Hermione had wanted to put the finishing touches on her extra credit Herbology project for Professor Sprout so she'd headed back to the castle.

Her heart began to drum painfully in her chest. She remembered walking past the stand of Oak trees just outside of the village when, unsuspecting, she'd been grabbed from behind. Strong arms forcing her head back while a cloth covered her nose and mouth with a sickly sweet smell. The last thing she remembered was the popping sound of apparition.

She saw another door on the left side of the room that she carefully opened. It led, she noted, to a large bathroom suite with large tub and shower.

She walked silently over to the door that she assumed led to the rest of the house and gently tried it. Damn, it was locked. No help there.

There was also a large window in the room that let in the streaming daylight. She pattered over to it on chilled feet hoping to get some idea as to where she was currently located.

She looked out to see what appeared to be a large, slightly overgrown garden. Beyond it there were some woods. Hermione believed that she was located somewhere in the country, but other than that, had no real clues as to precisely where that was.

Hermione reached up to see if she could open the window latch.

As soon as she touched it, green sparks shot out, burning her fingers painfully.

Squealing, she whipped her aching hand away and sucked on her scorched fingers. Obviously it was warded against escape attempts.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," she heard a deep, masculine voice say.

Hermione froze on the spot like a rabbit sensing a predator. Her hands began to tremble. She held her body rigidly, afraid to look over her shoulder. If she confronted this mysterious man the situation quickly moved from nightmare to harsh reality.

"The house is warded to prevent anyone entering or leaving if they do not bear the dark mark, in a particularly painful fashion I might add," said the drawling, disembodied voice.

Taking a deep breath, and steeling her nerves, Hermione turned to confront her captor.

Lucius Malfoy stood just inside the open bedroom door, lounging against the door jam.

"Shite," Hermione found herself saying.

Malfoy sneered, "Quite," he replied.

Hermione's eyes flicked up and down the man. She was surprised to see that he was wearing muggle type clothing rather than traditional wizard's robes. He had on a clean, crisp white shirt rolled up to his elbows that showed strongly muscled forearms as well as his dark mark. He had on a pair of stylishly tailored black trousers that hugged his long legs and on his feet he wore knee length black boots. His long whitish blond hair that reached past his shoulder was tied back with a simple black velvet ribbon.

A memory of something she had overheard about Lucius Malfoy recycled its way into the forefront of her consciousness mind.

One day, between classes, she'd been walking directly in back of Pansy Parkinson and Millicent Bulstrode and happened to hear them gossiping about one of their favorite topics…Draco Malfoy.

"Draco's handsome enough all right, but he's a touch too pretty for my tastes," said Pansy.

"Oh really?" scoffed Millicent with a disbelieving look. "And just who is better looking than Draco?"

Pansy's pug-like face took on a leering quality and she lowered her voice a touch.

"His father, Lucius Malfoy, of course," she hissed to her girlfriend.

Millicent erupted into a fit of giggles which automatically caused Hermione to roll her eyes in back of them. Honestly, they were such children sometimes. You'd never know they were all young ladies of sixteen now.

"But he's so old! He must be a least forty," she said in a delighted tone.

"I don't care if he's four hundred. He just oozes sex. All he has to do is to look at you and you'd be wet," Pansy said with a sigh.

Hermione had been disgusted. She couldn't imagine any circumstance under which a Death Eater would be in any way appealing. It was inconceivable to her that Malfoy had not only been able to escape from Azkaban Prison, but was idolized to the degree he was by the younger generation of Slytherins.

Snapping back to reality, Hermione realized she'd better bring her brain back on line. She only had her wits to protect her. Lucius wouldn't hesitate to level a killing curse at her.

"Let me guess," she blurted out.

Malfoy raised one eyebrow elegantly but said nothing.

'Show no fear' her deepest instincts told her.

"I've been kidnapped by Vol…You Know Who in an attempt to get at Harry. I'm not dead yet because you need to keep me alive. I'm at some sort of Death Eater safe house and you're here well I'm not quite sure why you're here," she said briskly.

Malfoy shifted and his leather boots creaked a bit but he said nothing.

"Though I must say its bit rude to take all my clothes," she babbled into the awkward silence.

Hermione blushed at the thought of Malfoy disrobing her. She'd never been naked before in front of any male.

Malfoy smirked as he seemed to read her thoughts.

"Not to worry Miss Granger. I wouldn't sully my hands on a Mudblood; the house elf did the honors," he said in a cold tone.

At the tone of curt dismissal Hermione found herself blushing harder.

"There are robes in the wardrobe. Clothe yourself and meet me downstairs in five minutes," he ordered.

Malfoy turned and left the room leaving the door open.

Panicked thoughts ran around in her head. There had to be a way out there just had to. She couldn't rely on her friends getting her out. She was an intelligent, level-headed girl she'd just to have to find a way.

Hermione stumbled over to wardrobe and pulled out a bra and panties. There were several lovely sets of robes including a jade green one that she pulled out.

These were all in her size. How did they know what to get?

She immediately dismissed such frivolous thoughts.

As soon as she pulled on her underclothes she hurriedly pulled the robes over head. She could feel her hair standing up. Gods she hated her curly hair first thing in the morning. Only with an assist from Ginny's Wizarding Miss Hair Spray could she ever truly get it under control.

She rummaged around and found a pair of shoes she put her feet into.

"Mirror," she muttered trying to smooth down her hair that reached down past her shoulders.

"Over here dearie," said a voice.

Hermione startled but followed the direction the voice had come from.

A large gilt mirror on the other side of the wardrobe sparkled at her.

She peered at herself in the mirror.

"Oh no," she groaned.

The green robes were beautiful but much lower cut than Hermione had ever worn. The tops of her breasts were even visible. Her hair was in wild disarray the curls pulling down her hair in a way that made her look well anything like her normal self.

"I look horrible," she groaned.

"I don't know what you're seeing dearie but from here you look positively luscious," said the mirror.

"I'll change," she said.

"No time dearie. You'd best get downstairs now. That man doesn't look like the type who'll wait," the mirror said dryly.

Panicking Hermione realized that the mirror was right. Her inner time clock told her that the fives minutes were well and truly up.

She raced to the door and looked down the corridor to the right. It seemed to lead to more bedrooms on the first floor. To her left was the staircase. Her bedroom was the first door on the floor.

Flying down the stairs as she did at Hogwarts when late for a class she paused at the bottom a trifle confused. Malfoy hadn't told her where to meet him on the ground floor.

As she walked down into the foyer she saw a hallway to the right. She went to the first closed door and quietly opened it.

Inside Lucius Malfoy sat at the head of a small table sipping what smelled like coffee. A quiet house elf was putting the finishing touches to a second place setting.

"Come in girl, and sit down," Malfoy said without looking up from the Daily Prophet he was reading.

This casual dismissal of her stung her pride. He wasn't even worried that she'd club him with the first available weapon that came to hand. And since she was feeling horrible anyway in the midst of her PMS cycle, she was more than capable of letting loose in such a manner. Both Ron and Harry had learned to avoid her at a certain time of the month.

Hermione huffed but shut the door and flounced to the table.

The house elf offered her a plate of muffins. She shook her head. She picked up the coffee pot and poured herself a cup adding a large measure of cream.

The coffee was hot and delicious. Hermione immediately felt her spirits rise. At least they weren't planning to starve her.

"I do have a name you know," she said a few minutes of silence. "It's Hermione," she said with a touch of asperity.

Malfoy lowered the paper and his icy blue eyes lazily took her appearance in top to bottom but said nothing.

Hermione found herself flushing again in anger this time.

Her breasts felt tender, her back ached, she was developing a strong tension headache, and the blasted man was looking at her like she was some insect he'd found squashed under his boot.

Hermione let out a scream of pain as Malfoy's hand reached out with the speed of a striking snake and grabbed a hold of Hermione's chestnut curls, yanking her ruthlessly off her chair and on to the floor beside him.

Tears sprang to Hermione's eyes as she gasped in pain. It felt like Malfoy had torn her hair out by the roots.

The newspaper fluttered down beside her as the death eater casually brought his left leg over her shoulder so that she was between his knees.

"You are what I choose to call you," he said in a calm low tone.

Malfoy released her hair and put his hand down cupping her chin bringing her tear filled face up to look at him.

Hermione looked up into his merciless blue eyes and shuddered. She was so close she could now feel the body heat coming off of her captor.

"Do we understand one another now?" he asked in a dark, silky voice.

Unaccountably, Hermione much to her everlasting shock felt her nipples tightening in her robe.

Mutely Hermione nodded hoping that Malfoy would soon remove his hand before he noticed her shame. Luck wasn't with her apparently because Malfoy chuckled darkly as he removed his hand, confused as to what to do; Hermione studied the floor where she sat sprawled, unwilling to risk invoking the Death Eaters temper again.

"Get up and take your breakfast," Malfoy said holding out a hand in a gentlemanly fashion to help her up.

Hermione hesitated fearing yet another trick of some sort but eventually she put her smaller hand in his large callused one as he helped her to stand. She snatched her hand away as soon as she was up, rubbing at it unconsciously with the other, trying to remove the taint of the man.

She was grateful for the chair underneath her as she sat down because her knees felt decidedly wobbly and weak

Malfoy picked up the paper off the floor and read aloud with some relish.

"Hogwart's student missing, presumed kidnapped," he said with a chuckle. "Their brilliance never fails to astonish me," he said.

"Me?" Hermione asked in a small voice.

Malfoy cocked his head and turned the paper around for Hermione to see.

At the bottom of the first page was the article along with a picture of her, Harry and Ron.

"Oh no, not that wretched picture," she said with a groan. "I could kill Colin. I look horrible there," she said annoyed.

Hermione almost fell off the chair when Lucius Malfoy started to laugh. With wide eyes she watched as the man continued to chuckle at her expense. He didn't look much a cold-blooded killer as he relaxed lazily against the chair. Why hadn't she thought him capable of laughter? One minute he was hurting her apparently without conscience and the next showing he had a sense of humor…most confusing.

"My parents," she began and then her throat closed up. Her parents would be out of their minds with worry for her. She bit her lip hard. She hoped that Dumbledore would have talked to them personally about their daughter's disappearance.

"What time is it, please?" she said in a small voice.

Malfoy scrutinized her for a second before replying.

"Mid-afternoon," he said.

She took another sip of her coffee her fingers trembling a bit. Anything that helped to clear her fuzzy mind was a good thing. Hermione also picked up a muffin and began to pick it apart on her plate in a nervous gesture.

After a few minutes the question that had been bothering her since she came downstairs popped out.

"Why you?" she blurted.

Malfoy who'd returned to his perusal of the paper looked over the top of the Prophet.

Hermione felt herself starting to stammer under his hard glance.

"I mean why were you chosen to guard me? The House is warded against escape anyway…" she babbled.

Malfoy put the paper down gently on the table and Hermione quailed a little against the hard back of the chair.

"Never mind, I guess it's just Death Eater politics," she squeaked.

A smile of genuine amusement broke over his face.

"And what would you know about our…politics little mudblood?" he asked silkily.

Hermione felt a bit of starch come back into her spine. She despised being condescended to.

"We do have Slytherins at Hogwarts you know," she said with a touch of tartness.

"You think we would actually tell our children something of value?" he asked in an amused tone.

Hermione fumed silently. Something both the Order and the Death Eaters had in common it seemed.

"But we're not children are we?" she asked starkly.

Malfoy laid his paper down eyeing her closely. Hermione felt her skin quiver under his gaze.

"I was fifteen years old last year, running through the Department of Mysteries, trying to stay alive with Death Eaters throwing curses at me and my friends," she said continuing unconsciously to shred the muffin she was holding into tinier and tinier pieces.

Hermione the warmth in the room disappear as the memories of that night again flashed through her consciousness.

"I hardly think that's the way children normally grow up," she said gloomily.

Hermione blushed when she realized that Malfoy was continuing to stare at her. How foolish she must have sounded. As if he would care even a little about what happened to her. What foolishness.

"I think I'll just see the rest of the house," she said rising on numb legs from the table. "That is if that's all right?" she asked hesitatingly.

Malfoy didn't respond verbally but nodded and then went back to studying his paper and drinking his coffee.

Hermione quickly departed.

After several hours of fruitless, frustrating exploration, Hermione ended up in the library which was directly beside the drawing room where she and Malfoy had first met. She gone from the top of dusty attic right through to the last cupboard in the pantry. The House was sealed off completely with dark wards. There was no way out.

She sat in a large leather chair her feet tucked beneath her and thought about her admittedly dire situation. She had no wand. Her current abilities in wandless magic were good enough only for the smallest of tasks such as a lumos spell, and certainly nothing as complex as breaking wards. And, even if somehow she could overpower the much stronger Lucius, she couldn't use his wand. Trying to use another wizard's or witch's wand was useless at best and, at worst, quite dangerous because spells could backfire badly.

Hermione looked around at the vast array of books surrounding her and fell back into her most comfortable of routines. Books had always been her best friends and helpmates. There was nothing she'd done in her life that books hadn't made easier for her. She would look through these books and see if there was anything to help her in this current situation.

She stood and walked over to the shelving. The books were more than a little dusty. She wondered why the house elf wouldn't attend to them as he did with the rest of the house.

Shrugging, she perused the titles running her fingers lightly over them. Hermione was slightly shocked to note that these were all about dark magic in one form or another. Indeed she could feel the dark notes almost vibrating out from them. Even the Restricted Section at Hogwarts probably wouldn't have carried these because they were clearly written for a dark wizard.

'Stupid' she scolded herself 'of course they're dark, this is a Death Eater safe house after all,' she began mentally smacking herself for being completely clueless.

As her fingers touched the books reverently she felt increasing jolts of magic reaching out to her. As she touched one book she was enveloped by a cold, greasy sort of feel almost tentacle-like reaching out to her magic.

Hermione snatched her hand away from that one as if burnt.

"Blood Sacrifice Most Potente" it read. Hermione shuddered.

She moved along perusing titles but carefully avoided touching them again.

Finally, she came upon a very thick tome but couldn't make out the title due to the accumulation of dust on it. She gently brushed it away.

"Sex Magic and its Various Applications" it said.

She felt a very pleasant sort of tingle run through her hand and down her body. Hermione giggled. Well this one didn't feel like a threat, and besides when would she have this opportunity again? She gently pulled the book from its shelving and took the large tome back with her to the chair and sitting down quietly opened it.

She became so engrossed during the next hour; she failed to hear the door opening behind her, or the soft footfalls that were muffled by the colorful Persian rug in the room.

Hermione's face was red as she studied a wizarding illustration. There was a young witch and wizard doing, apparently, anatomically impossible things to one another. She felt a low ache in her belly and a frisson of excitement as she closely studied the moving illustration.

"People can't really do that can they?" she muttered to herself. "It looks awfully uncomfortable," she said.

"Far from it," said a voice from in back of her.

Hermione screamed and jumped from the chair which only made the book go flying into the fireplace.

"Accio book," said Lucius Malfoy casually.

The book flew out of the ashes and smacked into his hand.

Hermione's heart was pounding and her hands were shaking. Her entire body seemed to flush as she saw Malfoy examining her book.

"Doing a little research mudblood?" he said with a trace of a smile.

Hermione gasped like a fish out of water. She didn't reply because she really had no viable explanation for examining it.

"My son tells me that you're involved with the Weasley boy," he said coolly arching an eyebrow. "Is he not satisfying you with his fumbling?" the Death Eater said with some little petty malice.

Hermione realized at that point where Draco had acquired his most annoying smirk.

"What?" squawked Hermione, feeling somewhat unbalanced by his assumptions. "Ron and I are dating but…we haven't…that is we've never been you know…" she babbled.

"No?" asked Malfoy in a vaguely disbelieving tone, walking around to sit in the chair Hermione had so recently vacated.

'Funny' she thought. 'He manages to be intimidating even when sitting in a chair.' The only other man she knew who came close to this level of dangerous personal charisma was, strangely enough, Professor Snape.

She assumed it was their shared histories as Death Eaters. After all, Voldemort would hardly select anything less than most talented, ruthless wizards and witches as his sycophants.

"Certainly not," Hermione snapped, feeling horribly uncomfortable standing in front of the man.

Uncertain as to what to do, Hermione's hands clutched nervously at her robe, while she tried to decide whether she would be able to flee to her bedroom.

Just then, the house elf popped into the room.

"Master, tea is served in the drawing room," it said with a low bow.

Malfoy nodded and stood up.

Hermione, feeling as if she'd just been freed from an Imperio curse, took a deep breath and moved quickly towards the door, only to bump into the door jam as she tried to rush through it. She bounced off of it feeling horribly gauche as she scooted towards the drawing room. Malfoy, walking behind her, snorted.

Hermione sat back finally replete. The meal had been perfect. She hadn't eaten substantially since her luncheon whilst in Hogsmeade with Harry and Ron.

The house elf popped into the room quietly removing the dessert dishes.

"Master would like coffee or tea?" it squeaked a question.

Malfoy let loose a tired sigh.

"No. Firewhiskey," he said shortly.

Hermione feeling sleepy from the meal looked up when the house elf turned to address her.

"Would miss like anything else?" it asked.

"Yes, some coffee please," she said, covering her mouth with her hand delicately attempting to prevent a tiny yawn from escaping.

Out of the corner of her eye she caught Malfoy sneering at her. Oh, right. If Dobby was anything to go by the Malfoy's probably treated their house elves at a slighter higher level than a useful scrub brush. She decided that if would probably be ill-advised at best to bring up the concept of house elves rights at this point. She found herself biting off yet another yawn.

Hermione was aware that it was imperative that she stay alert. If there was any chance that the contents of the library might facilitate her escape, she must be willing to devote the better part of the evening to research. She could ill afford to let her fatigue escort her into sleep. Time was not on her side.

The Gryffindor was honest enough to allow that this, at best, was a faint hope. But as she was normally highly self-sufficient, it made her more than a little queasy to allow her fate to be determined by actions of others.

Seconds later, the elf reappeared with a both a bottle of Ogden's Firewhiskey as well a glass for the blond aristocrat.

Malfoy opened the bottle and poured himself a generous measure.

The house elf soon brought Hermione her coffee, leaving the pot, sugar and cream on the table within her reach. As was her preference, she added a large dollop of cream then sipped the strong brew gratefully.

As Hermione drank her coffee, she belatedly realized that sitting with a Death Eater imbibing alcohol might not be the best idea she'd ever had. Merlin knew what he'd be like under the inhibition loosening effects of alcohol. Malfoy frowned, she noticed. It seemed that he could pick up the censorious thoughts from her expression alone. Hermione avoided his eyes, and turned in apparent indifference, to examine the rest of the room spending some time examining a landscape painting on one of the walls. Eventually, the temptation proved too great, and she found herself gawking again at the blond man sitting across from her.

Lucius Malfoy was now consuming his firewhiskey at a rather alarming rate. A few stray locks of his blond hair had begun to escape from the ribbon constraining it, and had fallen forward in a spill of silken strands about his face. In the candlelit room, it gave the somewhat misleading impression that a golden halo surrounded his head.

'Golden halo indeed,' she reprimanded herself sharply. I sound as shallow as Pansy.'

Malfoy appeared tired as he studied the light bouncing off the golden alcohol in his glass. There were dark circles beginning to show under his eyes and a slight redness to the eyes that bespoke more than a few sleepless nights. Hermione wondered how these months on the run and in hiding from Ministry Aurors had affected this member of the wizarding aristocracy. Malfoy had rolled his shirt sleeves up, so if Hermione craned her neck just at the right angle, she could see part of the dark mark crawling along his left arm. She shuddered.

'He couldn't have been much older than I am now when he was first marked,' she reflected.

Hermione tried to imagine one of her friends, under similar circumstances, accepting such a marking, but failed.

"Aren't you worried about getting pissed? I understand that firewhiskey can be quite…potent," she said warily.

"Rather the whole point of the exercise" he said sarcastically. "It will make my current duties appear, for the moment, less onerous," he said with a scowl.

Hermione quickly looked away, concentrating her efforts on finishing her coffee and quitting his presence as soon as she was able.

The rate of his firewhiskey consumption was making her more than a little apprehensive. A drunken dark wizard was not something she was prepared to deal with tonight.

'Or any night really,' she thought ruefully.

Hermione consumed her coffee at a faster pace and had almost finished it when Malfoy again broke the silence.

"Give me your cup," he said.

"My cup?" she asked blankly.

"Are you trying to be provoking girl? I said hand-me–your-cup," he said with irritation and then snatched it from her relaxed hand.

Malfoy poured a large measure of the whiskey into her coffee cup and returned it to her.

"Thank you very much, but I don't drink," she said primly.

Malfoy just rolled his eyes in apparent exasperation.

"Try it. You'll find it just might improve the company," he replied.

"I don't need alcohol to make me feel better, thank you," she said dismissively.

"Try it," he ordered, slamming his hand down loudly on the table, making her jump.

Deciding that discretion would indeed be the better part of valor when confronted with a Death Eater three sheets to the wind, she quickly downed some of the doctored coffee.

That proved to be a mistake.

She gasped, coughed and tears sprang to her eyes as she choked. She felt she'd swallowed liquid fire that had burned its way in a direct line from her mouth to stomach.

'How could anyone ever consume something so positively deadly voluntarily?' she thought, trying to catch her breath.

Her nose ran like a tap, so she took her napkin from her lap in an effort to discretely wipe it away.

Through watery eyes, she could see Malfoy openly watching her as he poured himself another shot.

"Not bad," she croaked.

To her wonderment, she saw his lips twitch with the beginnings of a smile. Eager not to lose the small amount of approval she'd garnered from him, and not completely sure why it mattered, Hermione took another swallow of the whiskey-laden coffee mixture. It still burned going down, but now seemed to bring a delicious warmth rather than pain this time. They settled into almost companionable silence as she continued to down his offering.

"This isn't half bad' she thought. 'It makes everything all nice and fuzzy around the edges.'

"More?" said Malfoy.

Hermione blinked. The coffee cup in her hand was nearly empty.

'How had she polished that off so quickly?' she thought.

At that precise moment, Hermione feeling quite laid-back and grown up, boldly held out her cup for him to refill.

"Why not," she said, with reckless abandon normally rarely exhibited by the young Gryffindor.

Somewhere in the back of her head, she heard a rather inconvenient whiny voice, trying to tell her that this was a remarkably bad idea.

'Sod off,' she told it. 'I could be dead by tomorrow so who'll it hurt if I have drink or two tonight?'

Feeling satisfied with her decision Hermione found, to her chagrin, that her eyes were drawn continually back to Malfoy. If she had been a magnet, Malfoy would, undoubtedly have been true north for the pull he seemed to exert over her.

Hermione examined him, trying to be as circumspect as possible while doing so.

The elder Malfoy's build was rather impressive; he was tall with a long, well-muscled body that gave off an overall impression of contained power ready to be unleashed at a moments notice. In comparison, Draco at age sixteen appeared to be but a pale imitation of his father. While the son was slender and fine-boned, Lucius was more strongly proportioned with a powerful chest and broader shoulders than his progeny. The eyes were different as well, for while Draco's eyes were a cold gray, Lucius Malfoy possessed the bluest, most piercing eyes Hermione had ever seen. They possessed a decidedly disquieting quality, especially when they were focused on you.

'He looks more like a lion waiting to leap on his prey, rather than a cold-blooded snake,' she thought. 'He even has the mane for it.'

Hermione giggled at the thought of Malfoy learning he had all the qualities of the Gryffindor lion. He'd be so affronted.

Malfoy flicked an inquisitive glance in her direction.

"Something strikes you as entertaining little mudblood?" he asked in a smoky voice, as he poured himself yet another shot of firewhiskey.

Hermione, whose internal filter was apparently vanishing along with her second glass of Ogden's finest, said the first thing that popped into her head.

"Pansy was right," she said with the beginnings of a small slur in her voice, "you're so much better looking than Draco," she said, as she leant her head tiredly forward onto one hand.

Malfoy's eyes narrowed upon hearing Hermione's rather artless confession.

"Why, Miss Granger you astound me. Was that an admiring comment I heard?" he asked cuttingly.

'What'd I just say?' she thought in some panic, scrambling to reconnect somehow with her brain.

'You idiot,' the annoying voice in her head said. 'I told you not to drink that! But do you ever listen to me…NOOOOOOO..'

Hermione slapped both her hands to her mouth in horror, as the conversation replayed itself in all its humiliating detail in her mind.

'Get up and leave right now,' her little inner voice prompted.

Hermione rose to her feet, listing a little to one side.

"I think I'll retire now," she said in a slightly shaky voice, while attempting to gather the tattered remnants of her dignity.

As she pushed her chair back, Malfoy captured her wrist with his hand.

Hermione squeaked in surprise.

'This is bad…really bad, I've got to go. He's going to kill me for saying that. What with me being a dirty mudblood and all' she thought, blinking somewhat owlishly at his large hand clamped now to her thin wrist.

Almost as if responding to that very thought, he planted his booted feet firmly and stood up, still keeping Hermione firmly in his grip. He showed little, if any, signs of inebriation save for a slight softening of his facial features. "Not quite yet," he said.

Hermione shivered head to toe as the Death Eater's thumb slowly stroked the back of her wrist. She tried ineffectually pulling her wrist away from him but found, to her chagrin, that she was no match in a battle of strength with him. He'd let her go when and if he pleased. Malfoy pulled her closer to him within a hairsbreadth of actually touching him. Since the top of her head only reached his shoulder, she found herself nose to chest with him. Hermione daren't look up because Merlin only knew how angry he might be with her by this point. He'd already demonstrated a capacity for violence when the mood struck him.

Her heart fluttered painfully in her chest in an erratic rhythm, but she became even more alarmed when she felt him release her wrist, moving both his hands down to encircle her small waist. Hermione caught a whiff of whiskey, leather and a trace of an underlying musky scent as she breathed in rapidly. Malfoy's physical aroma was well there was no other word for it, delicious. Hermione had never, up until now, given any credence to the muggle theory of pheromones used in attracting a mate, but she was now busily revising that position.

'You have completely lost it now my girl' said her inner voice. "You're going to be a teetotaler from now on.'

Malfoy lowered his head and Hermione felt strands of his sleek golden hair brush against her face.

Malfoy started to whisper into her right ear, causing goose bumps to erupt all over her body.

"Now what would your little Gryffindor friends say if they knew you were consorting with the enemy?" he asked.

Hermione gasped in distress. She tried to shift away from Malfoy but his grip was like iron around her fragile wrist bones.

"Flirting with a Death Eater," he said mockingly. "Oh, the horror," he murmured.

Hermione's eyes pricked with unshed tears. Horribly, she knew Malfoy was right; her friends would never be able to understand Hermione allowing such feelings to enter her head.

"Imagine their shock, their disappointment, that their pet mudblood would be available to me," he whispered into her small, shell-like ear.

"I'm not like that at all," she defended herself, peering blearily up at him. "I'm just a little under the weather at the moment," she hastened to add.

Hermione was shaken by the look of contempt he was giving her.

It was like having ice water thrown upon her over-heated hormones.

No matter how attractive the outer packaging might be this was a man who was, at his core, a Death Eater. A willing follower of Voldemort, who'd tortured and killed in the name of racial purity.

'You've let firewhiskey and hormones overcome your good sense.' she thought angrily.

"I hardly think you are in any way in a position to judge anyone's behavior," she said letting some of her anger trickle through.

"How so?" he asked with apparent disinterest, removing his hands finally from her waist and stepping back.

"Oh, I don't know. Perhaps serving a barking mad wizard who is intent upon massacring a large portion of the magical world might count against you," she said sharply.

"A Slytherin only serves his own best self-interests, Miss Granger," he said with derision. "But I'm afraid I've overestimated your ability to grasp the subject matter," he said curtly.

"Oh, I see," she scoffed. "Forgive me, I can now see the major advantages that your association has brought you," she said.

"I owe you no explanation mudblood, but perhaps you can follow this much. My family is everything to me. I do what I must to preserve and protect them as well as our culture. And if that means I must sacrifice myself for the cause then so be it," he hissed.

"Oh yes. Racial purity is so important to you isn't it," she murmured.

Malfoy let loose a deep breath speedily regaining the reins of his composure.

"You cannot possibly appreciate what family lines truly signify to a pureblood wizard. Do you know, even today, what the worst defamatory remark is that can be directed at a wizard or witch?" he asked.

"Murderer?" she asked sweetly.

"Hardly. The answer is blood traitor," he said. "The worst sin that you can be accused of committing in wizarding society is a betrayal of your own lineage."

Observing Hermione's baffled expression he continued, "Ah, I see this in one area that your so-called expertise fails you is it not? And why should you? You were not born to our culture, trained in it and knowing your family history as intimately as the back of your hand," he sighed in a world weary way.

"It isn't as if I haven't made an effort to do so. Yes, it has been harder for me than someone born to it, but that hasn't stopped me from trying to learn and benefit from the wizarding culture," she said defensively.

"Believe it or not Mr. Malfoy, I can appreciate pride in one's family and their accomplishment, but this supposition of pureblood superiority is, you'll forgive me for saying so, pure rubbish," Hermione said defiantly.

"How is it that I, a simple muggleborn, manage to achieve the top marks in all my classes, save potions?" she asked sweetly.

Malfoy frowned at her.

"It would seem that your notion of pureblood superiority has some rather large holes in it," she said with a frown.

A small smile tugged at the corners of the blonde's mouth.

"As with everything in this world Miss Granger, there are always the rare exceptions to the rule. So you see, your argument is still unproven," he said with a dismissive hand gesture.

Hermione opened her mouth to say something but Malfoy cut her short.

"My bloodlines reaches back through ten generations of wizards girl, I know more about our history than you could ever possibly hope to, and yet your presume to instruct me?" he asked harshly as he squared his shoulders.

Hermione fumed at his curt dismissal of her ideas. He wasn't listening to her. Nobody ever listened to her.

"Even should you win this battle you'll lose in the end, since, regrettably there is a major flaw in plan," she said coolly.

"How so?" asked Lucius, cocking his head with something like interest.

"Genetics," she said smugly.

Lucius raised both brows questioningly.

"Muggle science," she smirked openly now. "They're quite clever, you know. Or maybe you don't…much to your own detriment in the end I must say."

"Do go on," he said in a mocking tone.

Hermione felt incredibly smug now. This was something he was completely out of his depth on.

"I studied a variety of pureblood family's genetics as part of my research paper for Professor Sprout. There's quite a lot of information about the older family trees in the Hogwarts Library, you know. It proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're breeding yourselves right out of existence,' she said with uncharacteristic malice.

"Pure rot," Lucius said calmly.

Hermione giggled. Oh, revenge was sweet.

"Only too true, I'm afraid. You can even put me under veritaserum if you'd like to prove it," she said raising her chin to him.

"Sadly, the potion is not readily available to me here," he said, watching her like a hawk.

Hermione shifted from foot to foot unnerved by his calm contemplation. She'd thought he'd be furious at her for bringing this unpleasant truth to light.

"My research has proved that with each generation more and more squibs are being produced by purebloods whose prejudice limits their choices. Without the fresh blood brought in by both muggleborns and half-bloods, you'll eventually waken one day to find that entire family lines have weakened and died out completely."

Lucius continued to say nothing but ran a cold eye over her.

"Have you never wondered why the two most powerful wizards running around today are half-bloods?" she asked, frustrated.

"Dumbledore isn't," Malfoy finally replied.

"But he's three generations back," she huffed, feeling completely confident now that they were discussing her research.

Lucius was silent a few moments. He then grabbed her chin roughly and brought her head up sharply, locking gazes with her as he did so.

Hermione was unable to tear her eyes away from his ice blue ones. Seconds later she felt a terrible itchy feeling begin invading the back of her skull. It wasn't painful per se but decidedly odd. Thoughts and feelings started rise in her faster and faster as she felt like a deck of cards being shuffled.

Abruptly, he let her go, breaking the contact.

'Merlin, he's a Legilimens,' she thought in a slight panic.

Briefly, she thanked her lucky stars that Professor Dumbledore had indeed kept them in the dark where most Order business was concerned. Now she saw how easy it would have been to involuntarily betray them in some manner.

Lucius' continued cool, silent appraisal of her continued for several minutes, making her increasingly nervous.

"Point to you, Hermione," he finally said wryly, reaching down and taking his wand out of his boot.

Hermione, having been released from his grip, staggered a few steps backward in horror.

'Oh Merlin, he was going to kill her for being the bearer of bad tidings. What a complete idiot she was,' she thought in terror.

She saw Lucius unerringly point his wand at her. She shut her eyes not wanting to see her death in his eyes.

"Facundia," she heard pronounced, and felt a tingle running low in her belly, bringing a delicious sort of warmth with it.

Before the tingling disappeared completely she heard him murmur another word "Bonhomme," and another jolt of sensation went through her body.

Her eyes popped open. He hadn't killed her.

"What did you do?" she asked anxiously.

He put the wand back in his boot and moved forward stepping once again into personal space.

"Insuring my family's continued existence." he said.

At Hermione's confused look he continued, "I'm nothing if not a cautious man, Miss Granger. I can see the truth of what you're saying even if it's personally distasteful to me."

"You did read my mind," she gasped and recoiled from him.

"Dark Wizard, my dear," he said with a charming smile.

Hermione felt completely at sea. She had a sinking feeling that things were about to go from bad to really, really bad. Her hands clenched tightly at her sides digging her nails into the palm of her hands.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she whispered.

Lucius moved and wrapped an arm around her waist. Hermione tried to move out of his hold but his arm was like a steel band.

"Come, we'll go into the library and sit down like reasonable wizards and witches to discuss this," he said and gently pulled her along with him.

After they'd settled comfortably in the library on the plush sofa located near the now roaring fireplace, Hermione fiddled with her robes.

Every time Malfoy had moved close to her she'd scooted further away, until now she was trapped against the side of the sofa and could move no further. He was so close she could feel the heat coming off of him invading her space.

Clearing her throat once Hermione said, "you were going to explain what you did."

"You Miss Granger have given me food for thought," Lucius said rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

Hermione watched him carefully.

"And placed me in somewhat of a quandary. My orders were to hold you here three days but if we hadn't managed to lure Potter here by then, I was to use the killing curse on you and return to my Master."

Hermione went completely cold with fear. She was only sixteen. She wanted to live. Unshed tears started to gather in her eyes.

'Stop it, you silly girl. You knew it might come to this. It's a war after all,' she told herself fiercely but found scant comfort in the truth.

"Professor Dumbledore would never permit Harry to leave Hogwarts, especially after what happened with Sirius," she said miserably. "He'll have Harry watched closely."

"My thoughts exactly, however, my Master can be somewhat…intractable when he desires something. And above anything else he craves Potter's destruction," he said musingly.

"He's completely mad you know," Hermione said, preparing to be scoffed at.

"Most powerful dark wizards are," Lucius said easily, leaning back into the sofa and stretching his long legs out.

"But…but…why do follow him then if you know that?" she asked her curiosity well and truly piqued.

"Out interests happened to coincide," he said, his sharper tone indicating that the discussion was coming to an end.

Lucius eyed Hermione narrowly.

"However, your point is well taken. Leaving Draco as the only heir might indeed place our family at some risk," he said.

Hermione started to feel a bit uneasy.

"There are too many variables with him. He might become involved in the war and end up getting killed. Or, if you're correct, and he does survive to propagate he might produce squibs," he said, his face twisting bitterly as he admitted it.

"So, why don't you and your wife…umm…" Hermione stammered, her hands waving a bit in emphasis.

"But Miss Granger," he purred. "You've managed to convince me that I need 'fresh blood' in my lines to prevent the Malfoy name from dying out.

The other shoe finally dropped for Hermione. The fog her mind had been began to clear rapidly.

"Those spells," she gasped out, outraged.

"Charms actually," Lucius said and he placed his hand on her thigh.

Hermione couldn't catch her breath and was starting to feel dizzy.

"They were…they…"

"The same charms I used on Narcissa during our honeymoon. To insure that you are both fertile and will conceive a male child for me," he murmured, as his hand began to squeeze her thigh.

"You're completely out of your mind," Hermione said, completely flabbergasted. "Why on earth would I do that?" she demanded, her voice rising steadily in pitch.

"A very Gryffindor answer," he said with a snort. "Think like a Slytherin for a moment, girl. I assume you want to live, yes?"

Hermione nodded jerkily like a puppet.

"I want another heir. A spare if you will should things go badly in future for me. Insurance if you will that my family name carries on. That is always my first and foremost responsibility," he said in a hard tone.

His hand moved from her thigh, casually encircled her waist, drawing her closer.

Hermione could feel his hot breath puff her face as he continued to speak.

"A life in exchange for a life, Hermione. That is what I demand. You're attracted to me so it should hardly be unpleasant for you. I can see to it that you fully…appreciate me," he said lazily.

Hermione aghast at his inference tried to shrink back from him with an expression of revulsion on her face. Not at all put off, Malfoy leaned forward brushing his lips gently back and forth against hers. A little chill ran up her spine.

"Once we accomplish my goal, I'll release you back to your friends," he said and leaning in order to run his lips along the side of her neck.

Warm breath from his mouth touched her neck as he moved along murmuring something unintelligible against her skin. Hermione found herself arching her neck, giving him easier access as he planted light kisses on her throat. Lucius' hands moved to her breasts as he continued his verbal seduction.

"A life debt is no small thing among wizards as you know. So if I give you your life you'll owe me a life. If you agree, you'll take a wizards oath that obligates you to have and care for this child for me."

Hermione's inner alarms finally woke her from the sensual haze she'd started to fall into with his blatant sexuality working its own kind of spell. She jerked away from the man speaking in such blasé terms about impregnating her.

Her brain whirled crazily.

"That's insane. I'm only sixteen. I would ruin my life by having a Death Eater's…bastard," she said, forcing the awful word out.

"Death before dishonor? How very plebian of you," he mocked lightly.

Then Lucius expression hardened. "He won't be a bastard," he hissed. "Of course I'll acknowledge him."

Seeing the confused look on her face, Lucius looked disgusted.

"You know little of pureblood families, mudblood," he said with a sneer. Most pureblood wizards have more than few out-of-wedlock children about," he acknowledged casually, carding his fingers through her hair.

"At the very least the father will provide financial support for the child's welfare. Should he need another heir he can, if he chooses, acknowledge another male child as one of his heirs.

"Why haven't you done that, then?" she asked curiously.

Malfoy looked at her sharply before replying.

"Because, until now, I've only had female issue from the wrong side of the blanket and, really, never felt the necessity to try for another male child. After all, I had both myself and Draco and that seemed…adequate then. But times are perilous now with the ongoing war and one must cover all contingencies.

"All I have to do is contact my solicitors and have the paperwork done to legally acknowledge him. At that point my issue becomes a Malfoy in every sense of the word.

At Hermione's bewildered look he continued, "Oh, no need to fret little mudblood they'll be very discreet in handling the matter."

"But how can you possibly contact your lawyers? You're on the list of the Ministry's most wanted wizards. You'd be thrown into Azkaban if you were caught," she asked dumbfounded. Surely, the solicitors would turn the man in to the Aurors?

Lucius relaxed once again his tension bleeding out of him.

"Don't be naïve," he said in an amused tone, reaching out to entwine her long chestnut hair around his fingers.

"What part of discreet don't you comprehend Miss Granger? These solicitors have served my family for the better part of two hundred years and will continue to do so regardless of my current legal status," he said pointedly.

'And I'll just bet they've been very well compensated for that discretion,' she thought.

Hermione was really feeling out of her depth at this point. Was she really contemplating agreeing to this madness?

Doubt began to show on her face.

"I'll require a wizarding oath from you on our agreement, of course. That will insure that you will not change your mind and attempt to rid yourself of the child later."

"You don't ask much do you?" she said snappishly.

"I'm risk great deal," he snarled. "If my Occlumency skills somehow fail me when I'm questioned, my Master will murder me. He may indeed torture me regardless for "allowing" your escape, but it's a risk I'm prepared to take for the future of my family."

Hermione examined his grim visage and realized he was telling the truth. She shivered.

'Could she do this if it meant both her freedom and life would be returned to her? Carry and raise a Death Eater's child? She only had two days left. If Professor Dumbledore and her friends didn't find her in time she was equally sure that Lucius would carry out his orders and cast the killing curse on her. Would they understand? Could they understand?' the thoughts ran like a torrent through her head.

Hermione shook her head and wrapped her arms around herself and began to rock. It was a self-soothing technique, a childish habit, which she'd long since thought she'd eliminated. Whenever she'd been overwhelmed, stressed or frightened her parents would often find her in a corner somewhere quietly rocking.

'Her parents would want her to live no matter what the case. She had no doubts where their love was concerned but her friends were another matter. Harry might understand but Ron…Ron would never understand' she thought as a wrenching pain tore through her heart.

"Be still," she heard from the man beside her, as he put his hands on her arms, and shook her hard once.

Hermione's head snapped back and she stopped rocking.

"Well?" he drawled almost casually.

Hermione somewhat in a daze she licked her now dry lips.

Lucius hands tightened almost painfully on her upper arms.

"I want to live," she whispered.

"Good," said Malfoy shortly.

"Delb!" he called.

The house elf popped into the room directly in front of them. He bowed low in front of Lucius.

"Yes, master?"

"A sharp knife and a clean cloth," he ordered.

Lucius turned back to her.

"The rite will have to be hasty and lacking the normal formalities but it will be none the less lawful," he said brusquely.

"Rite," she said faintly. She couldn't believe this all wasn't some sort of nightmare she was experiencing.

"The wizard's oath if you recall is considered one of our society's most sacred rites." he said as the house elf popped back in and laid the items on the table nearest them.

The house elf looked at his master.

"That's all, be gone," he ordered, and the elf disappeared after dropping the knife and cloth on the sofa beside them.

"I thought you needed my wand for the oath?" she said hoping that somehow she'd find one last way to try and escape her fate.

"Weak, a very weak attempt, Hermione," he said cruelly. "The Oath requires that you swear upon your wand, which is really a metaphor for your power, your physical wand need not be actually present. That is just window-dressing so-to-speak for the ceremony."

Lucius retrieved the cloth and knife and turned back towards her.

"What's the knife for?" she asked nervously.

"A small cut must be made on both our hands first. While they're still bleeding freely we'll press our hands together, then I'll describe the Oath that you are required to support at which point you'll say your full name and swear upon your wand that you'll uphold it," he said.

"That's it?" she said.

"All that's required is the will, girl," he said, taking up the knife.

"How will we know if it…worked?" she said, trying to delay the inevitable.

"The magic will be very evident," he replied and then sliced a cut in his palm casually.

Hermione gasped.

"Give me your hand," he ordered.

Feeling numb, she offered him her hand. He quickly and cleanly made a small cut.

Hermione stared at the blood beginning to flow…it was almost hypnotic.

Lucius placed their palms together.

"I, Lucius Draco Malfoy, offer you both your life and freedom in exchange for you willingly lying with me tonight towards the end of conceiving another male heir for me. Once conception has occurred, you are required to bear the child and raise him under my name. You will make his safety and well-being your foremost priority over any other commitment you might have."

'Trapped,' Hermione thought dismally.

"Your Oath," he said coldly, snapping her back to reality.

"I, Hermione Jane Granger, swear upon my wand that I will uphold this Oath as described," she said in a trembling voice, wondering if that was enough.

As her last word fell from her mouth, she felt the magic in the room coalesce and swirl about them. She wasn't sure what to expect.

Where there hands met, she felt a tingling heat spread out from their palms, and as quickly as it had appeared it retreated.

"Done," said Malfoy in a satisfied voice. He then removed his hand and wiped the excess blood off of his hand. He handed her the cloth and she did the same.

He took his wand out of the boot and cast a quick healing charm on his hand and then hers.

He placed the wand back in his left boot and rose.

"Come," he ordered imperiously, holding his hand out to her as he did.

Hermione felt the last effects of the alcohol slip away and she suddenly was completely and totally sober again.

"Now?" she squeaked, suddenly feeling very wobbly.

Her only answer was a fairly impatient snort from the blond.

As she touched his hand he apparated them.