Rumpelstiltskin's Handcuffs

Chapter 6

Challenge Accepted

It was a strange feeling to become vulnerable to your worst enemy. Somehow, and in a very short amount of time, the world had turned upside down on Hermione's head. The castle air felt icy on her skin as she cried in front of Malfoy for the first time in her life.

Hermione no longer felt like herself. She felt dragged (literally) into someone else's life. The day and a half that she had been stuck to Malfoy seemed like it had been a week or more already. She was silent, though a million thoughts were running through her mind. She couldn't decide where to go or what to do from this point. She hadn't realized that the strange "jest" would put her life in real danger. Voldemort had used the killing curse on her. She wondered if this strange feeling she had stirring inside of her is what Harry lived with on a daily basis; the feeling of almost invulnerability.

Draco was staring at her, and she realized she must have been sitting there silently lost in her own thought. It was time to pull herself together, and it was time to stop feeling sorry for herself and her situation.

She met Draco's eyes, "Tomorrow we are starting with the letter A."

He looked at her puzzled…. Her comments had nothing to do with anything that had just happened. Hermione like every typical woman had jumped forward four trains of thought and hadn't let Malfoy know. "Do what?" he asked perplexed.

"Tomorrow, we are getting a dictionary and starting with the letter A. At some point we have to find the word that will release these cuffs. I am not going to be stuck in the middle of a war – literally stuck to the enemy."

Draco was flabbergasted. Mere moments before, he thought he had broken Hermione down. He thought that she would be an easy mark. He thought she would crumble. Her tears had seemed like obvious indicators of her weakness, but now it seemed like some switch had flipped inside her head. She seemed full of purpose and full of fire. Draco's task of breaking the girl down for secrets no longer seemed simple.

Hermione only said one more thing before pulling Malfoy's arm down in an uncomfortable direction, "night."

The morning sun was shining in the windows with an intensity that seemed unreal for the situation they were in. It was so bright it was almost mocking with its rays glowing across the carpet in streaks. Malfoy was not ready to wake up or to be dragged out of bed, but Hermione was wide-eyed and something more than just awake.

She was already impatient as he dragged his feet across the floor into the bathroom.

"What time is it?"

She smirked, "Six."

"What in the bloody hell are we doing awake at six o-bloody-clock in the morning?"

"We have a dictionary to read through because I don't plan on being stuck to an ass like you for much longer."

Hermione had found her gumption and was back to herself. The previous night's weakness was completely gone now. Malfoy knew he would have to find some way to get started on the Dark Lord's plan. He needed to scare her again. It was her fear that made her break down in the first place. "Well, if you aren't nice to me while we are stuck together, I know a million ways that someone would like to torture and kill you." He said it with an eerie smile and a pissed off tone.

She only rolled her eyes in response and continued getting ready for the day. Dragging a nearly unwilling Malfoy to the library was quite a chore, and it was definitely on her nerves that he didn't seem to care if he ever was free of her. She wished she could have a single second to think to herself to process the situation, but that was impossible. Could it be that he wanted them to continue to be stuck together? They were impervious to magic after all. It was like she had been thinking the night before – they were almost invincible this way. She couldn't allow herself to think of that as a good thing right now. She opened the dictionary and began to read aloud…

The A's had been no luck and thankfully breakfast passed with nearly nothing of interest. It was probably because over half the upper year boys seemed to be missing from the table. She wondered how late the Dark Lord had kept them to do his bidding. And how had she never noticed such large gaps of students at the table before? Strange the things that occur when you aren't looking for them.

They were on their way to Potions, and Hermione was dreading it. "Please don't try to antagonize Harry and Ron today. I would like just one day of peace, if at all possible."

"What makes you think I am always the antagonist?"

She didn't even justify it with a response, but only a snort.

"Fine. Fine. I don't want to be axe murdered in my sleep tonight."

Hermione grinned broadly, "Ooh! You know I hadn't thought of that yet. What a great idea!"

She was laughing as they walked in the door, and it must have been a strange sight for all. The Gryffindor Princess stuck in magical handcuffs to the Demon child of Slytherin and laughing together to boot. What in the world was it all coming to? The pair noticed several sets of eyes staring at them, and they quickly turned their laughter into silence.

Ron gave Malfoy a dirty look and asked, "Is he being civil to you?"

Hermione was annoyed because Ron was proving Malfoy right by trying to start something. "Yes, Ron! Now just be nice."

Ron looked at Harry with a furrowed brow. Harry and Ron had barely gotten to talk to Hermione in the last couple days and now she was barking at them to be nice. "I was just checking on you. Don't want that creeper trying anything!" Ron didn't know when to stop.

Malfoy, who had been ignoring the whole thing in the effort of trying to honor Hermione's request, now piped up, "Creeper? Really Weaselbee? Is that the best you've got?"

Ron stood up from his chair, "You just make sure you're keeping your hands to yourself Malfoy!"

Hermione could tell that the twinkle in Malfoy's eyes was not good, but she was too intrigued by what he was going to say to stop him.

"You mean I shouldn't be running my hands across Hermione's delicate back every time she gets in the shower? Or are you talking about when I tangle my legs with hers each time she tries to get comfortable in bed? Or maybe you are talking about when I help her wash her face each morning and night? Are you actually worried that I am touching Hermione or just jealous that I get to?"

Harry held Ron back as he lunged across the table. "It's not worth it man. Come on Hermione is stuck. Can you just try not to make it worse?"

Hermione mouthed a thank you to Harry and dragged Malfoy to a pair of seats far away from them. Malfoy's words hadn't been what she expected. She expected some diatribe about her filth, but when she thought about it she didn't think he had called her a mudblood in almost 24 hours. That was progress!

Potions was a hard class to be in without your dominant hand. She had to rely on Malfoy to do all their cutting and grinding. When it came time to stir he let her do it, and she was surprised that he hadn't complained that he was doing all the work. Something was definitely strange. When Professor Snape announced that he was coming around to take a grade on how careful they were with cutting their roots, she could have swore he was grinning at Malfoy! But amazingly, Malfoy helped her use her right hand to skillfully chop and dice, and when Snape came around to their table there was nothing he could count off for.

After Potions the rest of the day was relatively easy. Hermione was following Draco's schedule which meant no transfiguration until tomorrow. She knew that Professor McGonagall would have allowed her to slide on the spells for the next day, but she was still Hermione Granger and so she asked Malfoy, "Do you think that we could practice tomorrow's transfiguration spells for tomorrow?"

"You know she won't make you do it."

"If I am going to be stuck to you for some unknown amount of time, I need to either learn to be left-handed or we have to figure out how to do magic together." The words were out of her mouth before she realized the innuendo left hanging in the air.

Malfoy raised his eyebrows, "I didn't think you did magic with anyone."

"Oh shut it!"

"No really, have you done… the magic with anyone? You know Potter or Weaselbrain?"

Her teeth clenched, "Malfoy! That is none of your business!"

"Oh so you have! I bet it was Weasel. He was probably a mess, licking your face like a rabid dog. Oh Granger…" He had a good chuckle, and Hermione continued to turn bright red.

She was fuming as he made fun of her. In an attempt to shut him up, she blurted out, "No, Malfoy I have never slept with Ron! I am a virgin!"

The word echoed in the air. Challenge accepted. He thought in his mind, and suddenly he a had an idea of how to achieve what the Dark Lord wanted.