Hermione felt herself surface slowly from a deep sleep slowly. She was comfortable and warm and didn't want to leave her bed.

'Surely she could skip breakfast this morning and just go straight to class,' she thought fuzzily.

As she cracked her eyes open, she caught sight of where her robe had been flung carelessly on the floor, and then her memories began flooding back. Lucius. The agreement. Last night.

"It wasn't a nightmare then," she mumbled to herself, trying to take stock of the situation.

After a few deep breaths Hermione blushed. The room absolutely reeked of sex. She sat up in the bed and winced as she turned. She was a tiny bit sore down there and…sticky?

"Oh, dear Merlin," she said, dropping her face into her hands as guilt rushed over her.

She was a traitor. She'd willingly slept with a Death Eater and promised to carry his child, all in order to save her own miserable life. She might, at some point, be forgiven by her friends but she'd never be completely trusted by them—ever again.

'Get a grip, my girl,' her inner voice said. 'You're alive and that's what counts isn't it?' But her heart refused to be comforted.

Just then, the door to the bathroom opened, and Lucius came out only clad in a towel that was tied in a loose knot around his hips. He looked her over sharply before speaking.

"Get up and get washed and dressed. We've much to do. I'll meet in the drawing room in half an hour," he ordered brusquely.

Hermione looked over the bed only to see that her robes were too far away to reach. She looked up again as Lucius as he stepped in front of the antique mirror threading his hands through his damp hair.

"Delb," he called.

"Yes, master," the elf said, popping into the room.

"Bring me a fresh set of clothes as well as my toiletries and then clean this place up," he ordered.

Hermione snapped herself out of her paralysis.

'Its absurd to suffering from some sort of maidenly vapors at this point, the man has seen me have an orgasm for Merlin's sake,' she thought completely irritated with her own foolishness.

Hermione pushed the covers back, got to her feet, and forced herself to walk calmly into the bathroom. To her relief Lucius never even looked in her direction. Well, what did she expect? It was a business agreement…of sorts.

Under the pulsing hot water she worked to remove all traces of her nocturnal activities with Lucius. She washed her body several times until it was almost raw. She saw some shampoo and picked it up. It had a delicious floral scent that reminded her of lily-of-the-valley her mum raised in her garden.

'Well, why not?' she thought.

After two rinses, she squeezed the remaining water from her hair, roughly toweling it dry. Hermione quickly patted the rest of her body dry with the remaining towel. It was the best she could hope to do without the use of her wand.

She opened the door to the bedroom cautiously, but Lucius was gone by then.

The room had been cleaned to a fare thee well, the bed made and the slightly musty smell of their sexual encounter had been removed entirely from the room. Her robe from the night before was gone from the floor and on the bed was a royal purple robe with demure neckline laid out as well as underclothes. On the floor beside the bed was a dainty set of matching shoes. Wearily, with a small sigh she began to pull on her clothes.

By the time she reached the drawing room, Lucius was already there sipping his coffee and looking over some papers. Hermione hesitated before sitting down, Lucius hadn't even acknowledged her presence, perhaps he was already regretting his alliance with a muggle born witch? Maybe he had even had second thoughts?

Without looking up from the parchment she heard him say, "Sit down girl and stop hovering there."

She felt weak with relief. He certainly didn't sound as if his intentions were currently of the murderous variety. In fact, he looked rather relaxed. Hermione sat down feeling very young and inexperienced. How did one stop feeling gauche and awkward in such a situation? And what did someone say to a man they'd just been intimate with? She turned her attention to the breakfast table. Goodness the house elf had provided enough food to feed a dozen people. Scrambled eggs, bacon, toast as well as tea, coffee and juice sat on the table. She poured some coffee for herself and added some cream. She sipped it for a few minutes in silence. She jumped when he finally spoke again.

"Eat something," he said, looking up from his papers, a small frown appearing on his face.

Hermione shifted in her seat, unsettled by his piercing gaze.

"I don't really eat much at breakfast," she mumbled as she looked down at the table.

"You will now," he said firmly.

At her puzzled look he elucidated slowly and clearly.

"The baby?" he said arching his eyebrow.

Hermione immediately paled feeling quite faint. She might be pregnant, now, this very moment.

"Maybe it didn't take," she whispered, trying to hold onto some infinitesimal hope that her life wasn't about to go totally pear-shaped on her.

Lucius laughed.

"I assure you child, those charms have never failed when wielded by a competent wizard."

Hermione felt slightly sick as her last meager hope went down in flames. Lucius Malfoy was many things, but an inept wizard wasn't one of them.

At that moment Hermione wanted nothing more than to run home to her mother to receive comfort.

"When can I go home?" she asked in a small voice.

Lucius sobered and rose from the table. "I have some fire calls to make in order to make the arrangements. The house elf will come for you when I've completed them. Until then eat your breakfast and amuse yourself as best you can."

'Amuse myself? What am I a child?' she thought with a spark of anger.

But the door shut and he was gone before she could come up with a sufficiently withering retort.

After breakfast, she had retreated to her bedroom where she'd sat examining the dreadful situation she'd found herself in from every angle, desperately looking for some loophole in the nightmarish situation she had found herself agreeing to.

In the end, she could find no way around it. She'd taken a wizard's oath. If she chose to break that vow, her power as a witch would be destroyed, snuffed out. She would become the equivalent of a squib, but in many ways far worse off, because she'd actually had been gifted with power something that squibs did not normally experience and therefore wouldn't theoretically miss.

She shuddered. It was completely unthinkable. She would not give up that part of herself.

But if she had this baby, her life would change in the most profound of ways. She would no longer be Hermione Granger, good friend to Harry Potter, girlfriend of Ron Weasley, a talented, clever witch with a bright future. She'd become known as someone who'd willingly consorted with a Death Eater, mother to his child and outcast to polite society let alone anything to do with the Order.

She put her face in her hands and wept bitterly. Two hours later, the house elf found her sleeping, exhausted by a long bout of tears and overwrought emotion. "Miss, miss,' he said, gently shaking her.

"Whaaa?" she asked sleepily.

"Master wishes to see you in the library," it said.

"All right, just give me a moment," she said in a scratchy voice, stumbling towards the bathroom in order to empty her bladder, and attempt to clear away the damning evidence of her tears.

'You've got to pull yourself together. You can't afford to fall apart now; you're so close to reaching freedom. Concentrate on that,' she told herself.

After splashing some cold water on her face and relieving herself she headed down to the library. As she entered Malfoy was just finishing up a fire call. She heard him sign off with, 'I'll be expecting to hear from you then within the next fortnight," as he signed off.

She couldn't see who he'd been talking to, by looking over his shoulder.

"Sit," he ordered, waving at a chair.

Irritated by his snapping orders at her, she threw a glare his way, but it was difficult to look even vaguely threatening, when you still had red, swollen eyes from a recent crying jag. Hermione gathered together her now slightly wrinkled robes, and sat down in the armchair closest to him. She would have to choose her battles carefully with this man her inner voice admonished her. Lucius continued to loom over her rather than sit down near her.

'Showing me he's still in charge,' she thought sourly, looking down at the tips of her shoes peeking out from under her robe.

Malfoy cleared his throat. "I've made arrangements through a contact in Ministry of Magic to divulge the information, anonymously of course, concerning your whereabouts to the Aurors," he said.

Hermione's heart lifted.

"When?" she asked eagerly as her hands began to shake with excitement. He really was going to keep his word about releasing her.

"At noon today, I anticipate. You'll be free shortly thereafter," he said. "That is, unless, they somehow manage to bollocks this up, as they have been inclined to do, upon occasion," he said contemptuously.

"I'll have left by then, but the wards will still be left in place. They'll have to work to get you out. To do otherwise would alert the Dark Lord to a possible set-up which, as you can imagine, is neither profitable nor desired on our part," he said dryly.

"Won't he think it odd that you just happened to be away when the Aurors do arrive?" she asked.

"Still thinking on your feet I see, Brava my dear," he smirked.

Hermione squirmed under the light mocking.

"My master would, of course, under normal circumstance be quite…skeptical had he not himself specified prior to this that I meet with him today regarding this very issue," he said with a self-satisfied smile.

"At noon no doubt," she replied.

"As you say," he said nodding at her quick uptake.

The aristocrat studied her for a moment and then continued. "Give the Aurors no information when they question you. Say only that you were aware you'd been kidnapped but never knew the identity of your captor. And that you were quite alone until your rescue," he said.

"I'm not going to lie in order to protect you," she snapped at him.

Lucius reached down and yanked her to feet leaving her breathless.

"Stupid girl," he said shaking her once, gently, as he gritted out the words. "This is about protecting you and the child," he snarled.

His grip on her arms was painful and Hermione was afraid she had, once again, allowed her tongue to lead her into serious trouble.

"What do you mean?" she asked shakily.

Malfoy took a deep breath and loosened the hold he had on her. "Your faith in your friends is touching, misguided but touching. The Order might choose to leak such a tasty tidbit of information to my master in order to cause a disruption in the ranks of the Death Eaters."

"And that would be bad how?" Hermione said coolly.

Lucius ran his hand through his hair with an air of frustration. "Because, if my duplicity were to be discovered I would be as good as dead and if I am dead I cannot act to safeguard you and my son," he said, patiently explaining as though she were a child.

"I don't need your protection. I can take care of myself," she said, well and truly annoyed that he'd think her incompetent and incapable of caring for her child.

Lucius frowned ferociously at her. "You are aware that our child would be at great risk for anyone who chose to take exception to his paternity? Surely you're not naïve enough to think that the Dark Lord would stop with just my punishment?" he asked.

At her doubtful expression, he continued methodically shredding her hope. "Indeed, I should be very surprised if he didn't choose to try and make an example of you, thereby demonstrating the very great disfavor he holds for the idea of an alliance between a pureblood and mudblood," he said.

"That's rich, considering he's a half-blood himself," she mumbled.

"And his suffering at the hands of his muggle father has caused an implacable hatred of all things muggle. Having administered the killing curse himself once upon a baby, albeit spectacularly unsuccessfully, do you have any doubt he'd be willing to have one of his Death Eaters do so to our baby?" he sighed.

Hermione gnawed worriedly at her bottom lip. She hated it when he was right.

"To say nothing of other enemies the child might have," he continued, looking away from her pointedly.

Hermione, trying to grapple the enormity of the danger and challenges she and the baby faced, grabbed at his sleeve, tugging on it to turn his attention back to her.

"What other enemies?" she demanded.

"Surely you don't believe that a child of mine wouldn't elicit some rather negative reactions from among the more extreme members of Dumbledore's camp?" he opined.

"I've met some of them," she said cautiously. They're good people, I'm certain that they'd never hurt an innocent child intentionally," she said firmly.

"Oh, and you feel you can freely speak for all of them?" Malfoy said with some skepticism.

Keeping his insinuation subtle, with a concerned voice, he added, "Even those, perhaps, who've lost a family member in this conflict? There will always be some, I fear, that will neither forgive nor forget easily," he said mildly, reaching out to stroke her wayward hair.

"That's not the babies fault," she said vehemently. "He can't be held responsible for your actions," she said desperately.

"Your faith in humanity is far greater than mine apparently," Lucius said dryly.

Hermione was beginning to feel beleaguered at every turn. As much as she loathed the idea of deception, Lucius did make a great deal of sense regarding the issue of safety.

"The best way to ensure your security is to scrupulously control the release of information concerning your situation."

"You're telling me not to trust anyone," she said flatly.

"Certainly, at least, not until conditions are more safe to do so," he replied smoothly.

"Those conditions might never be met," Hermione said sharply.

"Admittedly, it is a scenario that might play itself out," he said.

Abruptly, Malfoy stopped teasing her hair and gave her a sharp look. "Forgive me, but you seem to be more than a little pale. Perhaps it would be better if we sat down to continue this discussion more comfortably," he said, while gently herding her towards the sofa where she sat down.

Lucius briefly hesitated, and then sat down beside her, half-turned so that he could face her. Slowly so as not to startle her and, in an almost a tender gesture, he brought his hands up to her to knead at her tense neck muscles with his hands. Hermione, who had made the leap from anxious to overwrought in the past few minutes, almost moaned at the release from tension his strong fingers provided.

"I won't lie to my parents. I can't," she said, as her neck and shoulder muscles started to unknot.

"No indeed. You'll need their cooperation in order to leave Hogwarts," he replied.

Hermione spluttered indignantly. "What are you talking about? I'm not leaving Hogwarts," she said, exasperated by his assumptions.

Lucius dropped his hands from her as she wiggled away.

"You'll have to transfer to Beauxbatons, of course. The administrators will be pleased; I'm sure, to accept an honor student at your level. And, as they do accept day students at the institution, you'll be able to make use of one of my safe houses in Toulon, not far from the school," he continued riding roughshod over any possible objections.

"You've gone completely crackers if you think that I'll do that. "I'm not going to leave Hogwarts and abandon my family and friends. You'll just have to get that entire idea out of your head, right now," she said, baring her teeth at him at the same time.

Malfoy reached out and laid his hand on her belly. Hermione made an aborted movement backwards but Lucius held her still with his free hand easily. "And how long do you think it would it be before Dumbledore would be able to extract information from you regarding your…activities with me?" he asked, stroking her belly almost affectionately.

Hermione's throat started to close. She hadn't considered the Legilimens skills of the Headmaster.

'Gods,' she thought. 'He's making me suspicious of all my friends now, I'm not like that, and I refuse to be.'

"He wouldn't say anything, not if I asked him to keep it secret," she said steadily.

Lucius snorted, removing his hand from her stomach, but keeping a firm grip on her arm.

"And what about your friends?" he asked, continuing his rapid fire questioning.

Hermione scrunched her face up in sheer frustration as he continued to outline the complexities of her circumstances.

"Even if you managed to conceal your entire pregnancy from them, how could you begin to hide the knowledge of your son's existence from them? Especially, if you're as close to them as you seem to indicate," he asked with infuriating calm.

Hermione's mind raced searching for an answer to the issue. Surely, she wouldn't have to give up everything?

"I could say he's adopted. That my parents are taking care of him in lieu of a cousin who passed away," she said, grasping at proverbial straws.

Hermione felt an overwhelming sense of relief at providing an answer that would allow her a least a modicum of normality.

Lucius' eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "Clever, but far from failsafe, my dear," Lucius said with an irritating drawl. "Anyone, should they became curious enough, could do a simple paternity charm that would immediately settle the issue of his parentage entirely."

Lucius began to wind some of Hermione's long chestnut hair around his fingers as he continued to speak. "No, the more people that know the truth, the higher the level of risk will become. There is little question that you must sever your ties almost wholly," he said simply, cutting away her support system with almost surgical precision.

"They'll never believe that I'd abandon them like that," she said. "They'd know something was wrong."

"Not if they received an occasional owl from you detailing your new happy circumstance. Suffice to say that without any signs of distress they'll be unlikely to investigate any further."

Hermione shook her head slowly in negation. "Harry and Ron will never believe it," she said contemplatively. "They know me and they know I'd never run away," Hermione told him.

"That's where your parents come into it, Hermione. Think girl, what would any parent's first reaction be to a near death experience involving their child?"

"To keep it from happening again, to make sure their child was safe," she said reluctantly.

"Exactly so, that would be any parents first thought and, therefore, their most likely action," he said.

"The Headmaster, as well as your friends, will readily believe your parents wishes to remove you from danger. You as their dutiful daughter will, reluctantly, accede to their wishes."

"You've got this well planned out I see," she said bitterly.

Lucius just nodded his head in acknowledgement as though he'd just been complimented.

"Organization, sweetness, is always the key to successful planning," he said with a wicked grin which made Hermione's hormones take an unprecedented leap.

"Don't call me that," she snapped. "You have no right," she said in some distress.

The grin slowly vanished as his demeanor became sober once more.

"You'll tell them, truthfully, that you will be undergoing the Fidelius Charm in order to provide your parents with some assurance regarding your ongoing safety, at least until the end of the war. I believe the boy-who-lived will have enough on his plate without over-thinking your change of plans."

Hermione's regarding him suspiciously.

"And just who would be my secret keeper?" she asked already guessing at the answer.

"Myself, of course," he said blandly.

"That wasn't part of the agreement. What if I don't want you as my secret keeper? What if I want one of my parents to be my secret keeper," she said pugnaciously.

Lucius assumed a bored expression.

"You are indeed a Gryffindor to the core my dear. Thank Merlin you have me to guide you," he sighed.

Hermione bristled at his condescension.

"Use your head girl, the choice of your parents is much too obvious. If the charm is to be successful in protecting you it must be left with an unanticipated choice."

Grudgingly, Hermione had to agree. But she didn't have to like it. It made her uneasy in a way that she couldn't describe knowing that Lucius would be her only connection to her old life.

Finally, after chewing anxiously on her lower lip for a few minutes, she reluctantly nodded.

"Excellent. I'll arrange for suitable help to be hired and in place for you when you arrive," he said smoothly.

"Help... What help?" gasped Hermione, alarmed by the amount of decisions being assumed by Malfoy.

Lucius reached out and again stoked her curly hair gently before dropping his hand once again to his side.

"The very basic necessities my dear," he said. "The baby will be delivered during the summer break but I'm assuming you'll want to return to school and complete your education, or am I a wrong?" he asked in a soothing tone.

"No, of course not," Hermione said stammering a bit. "I want to finish my education."

"Just so, my dear which means you'll need at least a minimal staff to give you the necessary assistance. That would most likely consist of a baby nurse to care for our son while you're away at school during the day, as well as a housekeeper and cook," he said.

"But…but…" she started to interrupt.

"Oh, and most important, the choice of the mediwitch that you'll use throughout your pregnancy and delivery," he said.

"It's all a little overwhelming," Hermione said faintly. "My biggest concern up until now has been to study enough to do well on my NEWTS next year. I don't think I can do this," she started to gibber

Hermione's heart began to pound. Perspiration gathered on her upper lip. Her hands started to tremble. She felt as though she were dying. "I've changed my mind. I can't do this. I won't. I don't want to be pregnant. Make it all go away," she said as she began to hyperventilate.

"A terminus charm," she said. Yes, that's what I want, right now," she forced out.

Lucius reached over and pulled Hermione up into his lap. He started to stroke her back speaking to her in low tones at the same time. "Slow your breathing," he coaxed, as he rubbed her back for a few minutes.

"If this were a normal pregnancy I could but, remember sweetness, you've already taken the Oath," he gently chided her.

Hermione found herself clutching at his shoulders in a panic. She desperately needed someone or something to anchor herself to as her world shifted completely on its axis.

After a few minutes, she found herself relaxing into his arms, lulled by his voice and touch and her breathing began to return to something approaching normal. With his strength and warmth engulfing her she was reluctant to break the contact by shifting away from him.

"You won't be alone Hermione, I give you my word. I'll join you whenever I'm able, as well as providing you with an owl to allow you to get in touch with me whenever you deem necessary" he said, in an effort to placate her.

Hermione lifted her head and looked at him with narrowed and somewhat fearful eyes. "How do I know I can even trust you? You've never shown any measure of honesty in any of your dealings before. How do I know you're not planning to use me in some way? Maybe even take away my baby once he's born," she said angrily, trying to reclaim both her equanimity and wit.

"You don't obviously," he said shortly. "Anymore than I can say I'm sure of your intentions. What's to stop you from turning me into the Order when I attempt to contact you again?"

Hermione, who had indeed turned over just such a possibility in her mind, ended up blushing. "I wouldn't do that," she mumbled.

"Hah! I can see the guilt written all over your face Hermione," he said playfully.

"Well, I wouldn't if I had given my word not to," she grumbled. "A Gryffindor can always be counted upon to keep their word, unlike some others" she said, tilting her chin up.

Tardily, Hermione realized she was sitting in his lap, like a sulky child being cajoled out of tantrum. With a little undignified wiggling, she managed to remove herself from his lap and back on to the sofa tugging her robes back into some order as she did so.

With a frustrated expression, she crossed her arms over her body in an unconsciously defensive posture, but verbally engaged him again, "May I remind you, that it was I who was kidnapped and, yet, somehow you've managed to put me in the wrong," she replied acerbically.

Lucius smiled. Hermione unaccountably felt her heart lift in response. 'Stop that,' her inner voice chastised sharply. 'A Malfoy's regard should mean nothing to you. You know better. You've made a deal with the devil and now you'll have to honor it, but you can never let your guard down, not ever,' the sobering thought washed through her, but instead of bracing her, it somehow managed to make her feel more than a little empty.

"True," Lucius acknowledged. "But my point is that I have as much to lose, if not more than you. Some small measure of trust must be established between us, don't you agree?" he asked.

"For now," she stiffly said.

Hermione was bone-tired both mentally and physically and, thus, incapable of working out to what degree she might be able to trust this mercurial and most difficult of men. She was rendered speechless when Lucius leaned forward and plucked her hand from her lap, laying a light kiss on the back of it.

"Thank you, Hermione," he said humbly.

She quickly drew back her hand saying, "Well yes, we'll just have to see how it goes," she said with her voice cracking.

Hermione, at this point, didn't quite really know what to think. A welter of emotions was currently running through her regarding this man that was thoroughly perplexing. She certainly felt anger, disgust and resentment in his presence as his very existence was an anathema to all she believed in but, strangely, Lucius also managed produced a sympathetic surge within her heart.

Hermione's thoughts flashed back to a day she'd spend in the country with her parents when she'd been around ten years of age. Using binoculars she'd brought, she managed to catch a glimpse of a fox. As she watched, the animal was busily trying to obliterate his original trail by doubling back on it. Hermione had openly admired its guile and beauty.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Hermione," said her father drawing on his pipe. "To other folk he'd be considered nothing more than vermin, a potential threat to their flocks and livelihood," he said.

Hermione had agreed reluctantly, but she couldn't help but secretly hope that the fox would continue to thrive. She shook herself out of her reverie; it was foolish indeed to be comparing the Death Eater with a simple instinct driven fox, if anything, Lucius was more akin to a rabid dog running wildly about threatening to spread his madness to any unsuspecting passerby by way of his bite. In some fundamental way her feelings had changed, the idea now of Malfoy dying in battle or, even worse, facing a Dementor's kiss filled her with some level of dismay and anxiety.

Even worse perhaps was the completely inexplicable attraction she felt towards the man. Why on earth should he hold any sort of allure for her? He was clearly an insidious threat to any who dropped within his sphere of his influence. Hermione blushed once she realized that Lucius was patiently waiting for her to re-focus her attention on what he was saying.

"Sorry, my thoughts wandered a little," she said. 'Maybe he'd cast a Confundus Charm on me while I slept? That would certainly go a long way towards explaining my odd feelings' she thought.

"We don't have long. I must be away from here soon," he said with mild reproof.

"Of course, please continue," she said, clutching her hands tightly together in her lap.

Freedom would be hers shortly.


Lucius paused in the doorway of the bedroom the Dark Lord occupied and waited to be acknowledged before entering. He had waited until evening to make his report to his Master as they had not set any particular time; he was only to give his account once his mission was completed. Lucius had occluded his mind well before he'd even set foot in the abandoned mansion. Legilimens was not a common skill, but it paid never to assume anything about his fellow Death Eaters. All too often in the battling for political favor a surprise could be sprung that could prove to have deadly consequences.

Lucius flinched almost imperceptibly at the magical aura his master always managed to surround himself with, somewhat like a bad smell that lingered on no matter how many times you aired out a room. It was an intense, damp kind of cold that reminded you of a graveyard on a raw, wet day in autumn. His master could lower the temperature of any room he entered by ten degrees in short order.

Lucius knew better than to ask about the phenomenon.

"Ah, at last my herald returns, come in, Lucius," said his master.

"My Lord," said Lucius, while kissing his master's robes from the kneeling position he'd assumed immediately upon reaching the Dark Lord.

"All went well?" said the tall figure in dark robes, who was sitting in a wooden chair by the moonlit window.

"Well, what did your Legilimens spell reveal?" he pressed.

Lucius kept his head down his long hair covering his face. This moment was crucial and would prove to be either his death or the chance at a new life. The first thing that any child of his house learned was that a successful lie only benefited from a large dose of the truth mixed in with the deceit.

"My Lord, I fear I must beg your forgiveness, for I have presumed to alter the plan," he said in a steady, neutral voice.

Lucius recoiled slightly when he heard a hiss emanate from deep within the dark robes that housed the rail thin creature that was his acknowledged master.

'More fool I for letting this creature rule me,' he thought. 'That youthful indiscretion might still prove to be my absolute undoing.'

Voldemort almost absent mindedly withdrew his wand from the pocket of his robes, and pointed it directly at Lucius.

"Crucio," he said coolly, looking unwaveringly at his servant as he did so.

Lucius was immediately overcome by the sheer, unparalleled pain that made up the core of the Cruciatus curse. He fell to the ground, screaming and thrashing violently, while traces of foam started to gather at the corner of his mouth as the seconds dragged by. Coherent thought was all but impossible whilst under the effects engendered by the curse; your only hope would be to survive whatever amount of time Voldemort deemed applicable for your transgression.

After what seemed like an eternity the Dark Lord finally released Lucius. His favored child laid panting and gasping at his mentor's feet trying to regain some part of his self-control. Voldemort had, time and again, made it crystal clear that he despised any display of weakness either physical or emotional in his Death Eaters.

"You displease me, my dearest of servants. Now enlighten me as to why you shouldn't be made an example of, as a most distressing lesson in obedience for my other children," he asked almost casually.

Lucius' bones and muscles were still shrieking in agony but he attempted to dismiss the pain from his mind. He must keep his wits intact if he intended to survive the next several minutes' interrogation. His master had a justly earned reputation for inflicting severe reprisals upon any servant who exhibited any signs of disingenuous or defiant behavior.

"My Lord, we already knew the chances would be minimal that the Potter boy would be foolish enough, or rather that Dumbledore would let him be, to fall into yet another trap of your making," Lucius said, blood flowing down his chin from a self-inflicted bite made to his lips during the curse.

The Dark Lord simply nodded an acknowledgement and Lucius continued, "The Legilimens indeed might have provided some information perhaps, with luck, something pertinent. However, once that single goal had been achieved I determined that we would have wasted a far greater opportunity, if I'd simply disposed of her, as per your original instructions," he said, trying to catch his breath.

"Continue," his master said implacably.

Lucius, using all of his formidable willpower, strained to reach a kneeling position again. "It was at your gracious hand my Lord, that I learned first learned how to take advantage of any opportunity that came my way" he said hoarsely.

"Go on," said Voldemort intrigued now despite of his anger.

"The girl herself provided me with an opening that I could hardly resist" Lucius said, while reaching inside his robe slowly to pull out a handkerchief to wipe away a trickle of blood running from his nose. "A chance to tie her to our cause thus making her far more valuable to us alive then dead," he elaborated.

"And what was this opportunity she provided?" his master asked.

"She presumed to instruct me about my own bloodlines," Lucius said with a crooked smile.

"The hubris," Voldemort said his anger flowing away into amusement in a heartbeat.

"She assumed we did not understand the benefits of inter-breeding with outsiders," Lucius said.

The Dark Lord actually laughed a short merciless bark. "And that led to…" the Dark Lord prompted.

"An agreement of sorts was struck, my Lord," Lucius said. "I allowed that her muggle "science" might indeed have a point, that prompted me to ask her to let me father a child on her in return for her freedom," he finished.

"And the mudblood agreed?" Voldemort asked incredulously.

"I can be very…persuasive when I choose to, my Lord," said Lucius with the hint of a smile on his face.

"To what end then…blackmail perhaps?" asked Voldemort.

"No my Lord, I suspect the mudblood would be highly resistant to that approach. The linchpin here I think will be the child. It will be my connecting point, my entrée if you will, to her life and eventually her secrets," said Lucius.

"And can you be sure Lucius that she won't flee and simply abort the child?" his master probed.

Lucius nodded. "I can master. Part of our agreement was that she swear a wizard's oath to both bear and protect the life of the child," he said simply.

"So the groundwork is already laid for this blood bond?" his master murmured.

"Even better than that my Lord, the bond was assumed by her and girl is now pregnant with my child. I've even begun the process of cutting her ties to her friends in the Order," he replied.

"You amaze me sometimes Lucius. But then you were always skilled in arts of pleasure. A fairly straightforward breeding was it then?" Lord Voldemort queried, indicating the necessity for further elaboration on his servants part.

Voldemort then waved his arm languidly at the same time, indicating that Lucius could now safely rise. Lucius rose unsteadily and stood in front of his shadowy master in a more relaxed manner although his muscles felt weak as a newborn babe. "Yes my lord, we had an almost immediate physical rapport that made everything go smoothly," Lucius elaborated.

"I see your charms are still undiminished my friend," said the Dark Lord.

Lucius gave his master a half-bow. "Desirability, at is most basic level, is only power calling to power, my lord," he replied.

"So, she is as talented as advertised?" asked Voldemort.

"Yes, power combined with intelligence. Unusual for a Gryffindor," Lucius said.

"But loyalty is also a strong trait among that house Lucius. Will she support our cause?" he asked.

Here Lucius hesitated searching his mind for the most suitable words. "Not the cause per se my lord," he said delicately. "But she will be loyal to me, and that amounts in the end to the same thing surely?"

"Somehow I fail to see the connection," Voldemort said in a chilly voice.

Lucius dropped his eyes submissively. "My lord she is young and still quite malleable. If I continue to companion her, seduce both mind and body, she will, eventually, I believe be willing to do almost anything to protect myself and the child. That potentially, could prove very useful and with little effort expended in the process," he replied easily.

Lucius watched warily as Voldemort proceeded to tap his wand thoughtfully on the arm of his chair. "Put it in plain words, my heart" he ordered.

Since Voldemort only called him his "heart" if he was pleased, Lucius hurried on, "My Lord, she will never actively spy for us, but she can still provide us with vital information, if only in a passive way. Once our child is born, I'll claim that our safe house has been discovered and that necessitates moving her again. By that time she'll be quite homesick, and I'm fairly sure she'll initiate the idea of a return to England, that with much reluctance, I'll finally agree to."

"And just how will you explain the sudden addition of her son?" the Dark Lord said leaning forward enough so that Lucius could clearly see the peculiar reddish cast that his eyes reflected.

"It can be explained away as a youthful indiscretion, master, someone she met while in school. It will credible to all her friends, as she will have obviously suffered from the enforced isolation. If necessary, we can produce a young man to claim the child as his. We have many supporters in France who would be happy to do so if she were pressed on the issue."

"And you believe she'd agree to the lie?" said Voldemort his fingers caressing his wand.

"To regain the opportunity to see both her friends and family again, most assuredly, my Lord," said Lucius succinctly.

The Dark Lord shifted in his seat. "A long term plan with, perhaps, but small gains in the end," he mused.

Lucius went down to one knee again. "My Lord if your oracles are accurate, the final battle is still some ways away yet. We may gain much advantage in the interim should we have access to inside information," Lucius said.

"Their divinatory efforts had best be truthful," snarled the Dark Lord. "I gave them one of my best servants to boost their powers to that very purpose," he said angrily.

Lucius shuddered at the memory of the human sacrifice involved that had enabled the seers to gain the Dark Lord that one small advantage. Crabbe senior had, it seemed, screamed endlessly as his lifeblood had run out over the ceremonial stone before he finally fell silent, unconscious from blood loss.

It didn't pay to be located on the lower rungs of power in the Dark Lord's organization. Lucius' back muscles were right on track towards a stabbing ache if he continued to hold the supplicant position much longer, but he knew better than to move or show any level of discomfiture. There was nothing that fed his master's ego more than a pureblood wizard on his knee before him. He must not lose this moment.

"With careful handling my leman will be most reluctant to see anything happen to me. Her emotions, the very loyalty that her house is known for, will eventually provide us with information that might prove imperative to our cause," the blond said bowing his head, waiting patiently for the results of his petition

Voldemort sat deathly still and all Lucius could hear was the rattling, almost asthmatic sounding breathing, which his master produced. Several minutes had elapsed before the Dark Lord spoke again. "Very well then proceed, but remember Lucius, if this fails the penalty falls to you," Voldemort said with dark amusement.

"As you say, my lord," Lucius replied calmly.

"You are dismissed my friend," Voldemort said, turning away to scrutinize the full moon outside his window, thereby effectively dismissing him.

Lucius rose and bowed his way out of the room, leaving the house without pausing to speak to any of the Death Eaters housed there. He made his way quickly and quietly across the Riddle Mansion grounds to reach a spot on the outer limits of the grounds that he could safely apparate from. He paused long enough to look back over his shoulder at the shadowy house flanked by the nearly invisible guards. He took a deep cleansing breath and released the occlusion barriers he'd set in place prior to his meeting.

'The first hurdle is completed,' he thought. 'I've convinced the Dark Lord that the idea is a sound one, and he's agreed to the necessity of me continuing to see and work with the girl.'

Lucius grunted and stretched his arms over his head trying to release some of the painful kinks the curse had caused. In his unhappy stint in Azkaban Lucius had found himself coming to the unhappy conclusion that Voldemort would soon fall, fueled in no small part by his madness as well as his completely execrable skills in strategizing.

Balancing the requirements of two masters was proving the ultimate ruse and perhaps, also providing the most definitive test his Slytherin skills had ever come up against. Both Voldemort and Dumbledore suspected his motives of course, but so long as he proved useful, he would most likely continue to live. The canny Headmaster of Hogwarts had tried to Legilimens him each and every time they met, but thus far, had been unable to penetrate Lucius' mind. Lucius was unsure at this point which was the more dangerous of his masters.

But if he did not manage to survive, then Draco and this new heir must survive in order to find a place in the new power structure that would arise from the vacuum created by the loss of the Dark Lord. The new wizarding world that would arise from the ashes of the old must not by run entirely by Dumbledore and his cronies. That was non-negotiable and the most imperative item on his agenda.

Someone must remain to help embody Salazar's values and try to reestablish a way to carry on the pureblood traditions and customs. In the first flush of victory, power would undoubtedly be handed to the more liberal element of wizarding society, but it need not remain so. If a series of unfortunate incidents should happen to occur in direct relation to certain foolish open-door policies, the court of public opinion might turn around quite rapidly.

If and when it did, a Malfoy must be ready to step forward and accept a foremost appointment in the government, perhaps even the Minister of Magic position itself. It was Lucius' obligation to his family and his blood to ensure that this happened at some point.

Lucius recognized too that his marriage to Narcissa had run its course. She'd provided him with an heir but was, unfortunately, no longer the asset she once been. In the next few weeks he'd make a generous offer to her as an incentive for her to divorce him. The funds that he'd secreted away in his Swiss accounts ought to prove sufficient to that purpose. Narcissa knew of those but nothing of the existence of his French funds that would be used to make Hermione and her child financially secure. In marriage, especially an arranged marriage, it was always best to keep some secrets.

At present, while his influence was at its lowest ebb, Narcissa would undoubtedly leap at the chance to avoid the possibility of suffering the fate as her husband. His wife had many fine qualities but foresight was not among them, and she would undoubtedly believe his assertion that he was protecting both herself and Draco by setting her aside.

It would also suit his purpose because, by necessity, the separation would create a soft landing spot for Draco after his graduation from Hogwarts. In his usual oblique fashion, Lucius had made it clear to his son that he must avoid be marked at all costs. Fortunately, his master did not favor marking anyone before reaching their full adult status. Juvenile or otherwise irresponsible behavior did not mix well with the demands that the Dark Lord placed upon his followers.

He could almost feel regret that his unsophisticated lover would be cast into the maelstrom but, in the end, she'd have her reward. Hermione and her son would help represent the face of the new Malfoy's.

Strangely enough, he felt an affection for the girl that he'd never felt for Narcissa before their marriage. That had been a business deal between the families clear and simple and both he and Narcissa had accepted the rules and practices of an arranged marriage. This affair with the youngster was amusing and almost…sweet.

He shook his head to rid himself of such fanciful thoughts. He sounded like some addled Hufflepuff.

With patience, Hermione would come to believe that Lucius had changed due to both her influence and that of the child they shared. He would make sure she found out at some point that he was actually spying for Dumbledore, but he would never tell her so himself. That would be entirely too vulgar.

He would then propose to Hermione as soon as the political dust settled and for the wedding he would open his home to the power brokers and sycophants of the newly installed government. With Hermione, Draco and his new baby son at his side, he would start to make inroads on establishing an entirely new reputation for his family, that of tireless loyalists to the new government.

And Dumbledore himself would be the very one to help him to reach this nexus. Oh, the irony! Served the old bastard right, Lucius hoped this would help kill him.

With a snort, he pulled his cloak closer as it had begun to become much colder. He stamped his boots and blew on his hands.

It was time to put his plans into effect. He resumed walking again.

Only time would tell how it would all end.