Title: Freedom's Consequence, Rapture's Reward
Rating: M (This rating is for mild violence, briefly mentioned dark themes, sexual situations, adult language, and adult themes.)
Disclaimer: The characters contained in this fanfiction are the sole property of J.K. Rowling her publishers, their publishing houses, and the fine studio of Warner Bros. and subsidiaries. I will in no way sell or reproduce this story for profit. In no way will any funds be made from the writing of this work. Edited to add credit to Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and her plot from Shanna. This entire disclaimer applies to her work as well.
A long lost relative leaves Hermione a small fortune in her will. However there is a catch and Hermione must marry one year from her relative's death before she can take possession of her inheritance. Unable to find a suitable husband Hermione grows desperate and enlists the help of her friend Neville Longbottom in a dangerous scheme. Thinking to marry a prisoner of the Ministry of Magic sentenced to death so that she will not be forced to remain in a loveless marriage and have the matter settled Hermione is left with only one choice. Forfeiting all pride she asks the unimaginable of her childhood nemesis Draco Malfoy. Striking a bargain with the infuriating Malfoy she assumes that all will proceed as she has planned. When the terms of the agreement are met Hermione is certain that she can put the dreadful night behind her, but fate and Malfoy each have different intentions.
An Ominous Bargain
There were things that one simply did not do and that was try and gain entrance to see a Ministry of Magic prisoner for any purpose. If Percy Weasley were to discover that he had even entertained the idea one Neville Longbottom was certain he would be promptly shown the door and his employment at the Ministry would be a distant memory. That said he could never say no to her and all in all her reasons for concocting the most insane plan he'd ever known her to devise were selfless.
Even if that damned S.P.E.W. for those little house elves was a bit out of the ordinary to say the least, researching and inventing new counter spells was always something one should dabble in if they were of the intelligence to do so. Of course research and foundations even hopeless ones like the Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare, were worth at least testing on a larger scale and perhaps his industrious little friend could make a go of it. Then again was it really worth entering into such an agreement with someone so vile and untrustworthy even if that someone was scheduled for execution at the end of the following week? Naturally he hadn't told her exactly who the prisoner was just yet.
"Hermione are you sure this is something you want to do? I know you have it all worked out in your mind and you think that this ties up every loose end, but do you suppose that this might be a little extreme?"
Sighing heavily with aggravation and impatience Hermione Granger sized up her sometimes timid friend. He was only worried about her so she stamped down her annoyance that it was the hundredth time in the space of an hour he had asked her that very same question. "Neville we've been through this and there isn't any other way. Now you know Harry and Ron would never have approved so I'm begging you to keep this secret do you understand?"
Nodding dejectedly at not being able to dissuade her Neville sat back in the carriage and waited as it came to a halt before the Ministry. Maybe if he told her the name of the prisoner she might think differently about her intentions. Somehow though he knew she would be angry with him for his deception and decision not to reveal the prisoner's identity sooner. Maybe it was best to let her be surprised knowing her temper.
Hermione was sharing her friend's misgivings about her proposed arrangement but it wasn't her fault she had to resort to such excessive measures. Long lost relatives with sizeable fortunes were very nice to find as long as they veered away from eccentric tendencies. Not so fortunately for Hermione said aunt did have an eccentric streak and that was the reason for her decent into madness at the moment.
Nearly a year ago just after graduation an aunt of her mother's that Hermione had never heard mention of before appeared. Her mother had been hesitant at first explaining that Aunt June Durston had always been somewhat of the black sheep of the family, but Aunt June made herself at home with the Grangers easily within a few days. Her stay was short lived as her condition was failing and she had only come to find her last remaining relative, Hermione's mother. After the Grangers had laid her to rest a copy of her will was sent by messenger and read by a local barrister. That was when the chaos had ensued.
The darling June had left Hermione's mother her estate in Wales and to Hermione a lump some of nearly six hundred thousand pounds. There was a small catch to Hermione's inheritance, June's sense of humor or sick need to control something beyond the grave evident in the request. Hermione Granger must marry before one year had passed after June's death or the inheritance would be forfeited and sent to an undisclosed charity.
She had tried for a while to find a suitable young man, wizard and muggle alike, but no one had been able to hold her interest long enough. Marriage was a monumental commitment and when one entered into such a union it was until death parted the respective spouses. So that was the root of her plan to some extent, since she had found no one as of yet, and there were numerous Death Eaters and dark wizards being sentenced to death by the Ministry daily she'd formed a scheme. By marrying one of the condemned men in secret she could be rid of him by natural means and since he would obviously be of a dubious character and deserving of his fate she had nothing to feel guilty about. Besides the house elves of the Wizarding World needed her and there were so many ideas she had for researching spells and potions that it kept her awake at night trying to write down every inspiration as it came to mind. If Aunt June was going to make the terms of her will irregular Hermione saw nothing wrong in fulfilling the terms in a rather irregular way.
Neville helped her from the carriage and muttered some excuse to the wizard guarding the entrance as to what he was doing at such a late hour. Though suspicious the young wizard let the pair pass and once inside Neville muttered the apparating spell known only to Ministry Wizards that lead to the holding cells of the condemned, doomed for Azkaban. Hermione drew closer to her friend for comfort as the darkness and shouts coming from the rooms were unnerving.
"Why don't you put a silencing charm on their cells?" she asked Neville cringing at a particularly rude insult hurled at no one in particular emanating from a room to their left.
"Because sometimes they actually slip up and tell something useful. They rant all night long some of them so eventually they go a little mad and tell some secrets here and there," Neville explained counting the number of cells to his right stopping at the next to the last one down the hallway.
"You're certain this one will be reasonable and is scheduled for transport to Azkaban at the end of this week?" Hermione wanted to be certain her plan was in no danger of failing.
"Well none of them are what you'd call reasonable, but yes he's scheduled for transport to Azkaban and will be executed next week," Neville assured her drawing in a deep breath before opening the cell before them.
"Keep your wits about you Mione' and don't let your guard down for a second. This one is suspected to be have some rather strong mental abilities. Have your wand at the ready," he advised knowing it was now or never.
Nodding Hermione straightened her back not afraid of any Death Eater or dark wizard. She had stood at Harry Potter's side during the final battle against the most evil wizard of all; whatever creature lay beyond in the cell could not unnerve her. Neville reluctantly opened the door with a secret incantation and stepped in Hermione following him.
"I thought I told you to fucking sod off Weasel," a sinister voice echoed through the room laced with some weariness and exceptional irritation.
"Sorry to disappoint you, but Percy's actually gone for the evening," Neville sighed unruffled by the behavior of the prisoner. This was rather tame to say the least. He usually was trying to invade their minds and planting suggestions there, attempting to turn them against one another and make a chance at his escape.
For only a second was Hermione caught off guard then she leveled Neville with a blistering glare. "Didn't know who the prisoner was? Gods Neville you didn't say it was Malfoy," she spat as though the very name she had spoken was poison on her lips.
"Now Mione' I thought you said that it didn't matter who…" Neville began holding up his hands in surrender.
"It matters when it's that thickheaded git Malfoy by Gods you know it Neville," she hissed her face getting flushed and her chest heaving. Of all of the things Neville had neglected to tell her about the prisoner or learn for himself it had to be his name.
The man being discussed cleared his throat loudly with mild annoyance. "So Longbottom, Weasel finally let you have the keys to the kingdom as it were? I thought you weren't allowed to interrogate prisoners anymore? Don't have the stomach for it?"
Neville shifted nervously from one foot to the other like he had always done when Malfoy had taken to teasing him relentlessly or insulting him. It was as if they were in school again, not prisoner and warden so to speak. "I don't have business with you, Miss Granger does and I suggest you act civilly because what she has to say might benefit you."
"Neville I don't think I care to get into what I came to discuss. I don't want to benefit Malfoy in any way," Hermione turned her back then to leave.
Neville did grow a bit angry then. He had risked his job at the Ministry, risked his reputation, would have to endure Malfoy's mocking while they conducted the affair, dammit Hermione was going to finish what she started. "No, this is your last chance. He's the only one scheduled for execution before the end of the month and that's when the terms of the will state your time is up. It's now or never."
"Find someone else and we'll back date the marriage certificate," she growled still not turning around.
"Hermione, now I'm not fond of the bastard either, but at least it gets you the money and the chance to start that elf foundation and your research," he tried to reason with her. She was stubborn and it wasn't an endearing quality at the moment.
"The bastard is right here Longbottom and can hear every word you're spitting out of that useless mouth of yours," Malfoy drawled with aggravation.
"I'm not doing it Neville. I'd rather have my eyes gouged out with hot pokers," Hermione snapped at her friend when Neville reached and caught her wrist to propel her backward.
"This conversation alone makes torture seem more merciful." This was from Malfoy again more infuriated that whatever the Mudblood and the worthless Longbottom discussed was actually intriguing him in the least. He had been staring at these four walls for far too long if he thought anything about them was interesting.
"I have to agree with him on that one Neville," Hermione sighed jerking out of his hold.
"Fine, I'll do it for you if you're going to be this obstinate." Neville notched his chin with a frustrated sigh. Why did it have to be that the heartless prat from their school years was the only one listed on the execution list for the rest of the month?
"Miss Granger had the unfortunate experience of losing a relative almost a year ago. In her will she left Miss Granger a rather sizeable amount of money except she had a rather unusual request attached. Before Miss Granger can receive the money she must be married," Neville finished explaining throwing a small warning glare to Hermione over his shoulder when it looked as though she might run from the room right then and there.
"So Potter and the other Weasel were occupied?" Malfoy asked raising an incredulous brow.
"Miss Granger doesn't particularly wish to be married, but for the sake of the money she's willing to make the sacrifice. However she thought that marrying a prisoner sentenced to death would be the easier answer since she could marry in secret, present the barrister with the certificate, and collect the money. The man will be put to death and Miss Granger will be free to go about her life as she did before."
"That is the most selfish, avaricious plan Granger's ever come up with. I'm almost impressed, but not enough to care really," Malfoy shrugged noncommittally causing the magically charmed manacles around his wrist and chains secured to the wall at his back to creak and moan.
"See Neville you've wasted your breath just like anyone else who's ever tried to make any sense with him at all," Hermione grumbled more than humiliated in how Neville had made the arrangement seem. She wasn't selfish!
"What Mr. Longbottom meant to say was that I need the money for research and an organization I'm hoping to maintain. I'm sorry to disappoint you but I'm needing to marry and let death part me with my husband for purely noble reasons," she finished making sure to look down her nose at the arrogant man reduced to nothing more than shackles and a murderous reputation.
"I'm not sure the fellow you're planning to trap into such an arrangement would see your intentions as noble," Malfoy snorted dubiously. "Besides what do you expect to offer him in return? Sounds like a very one sided agreement to me."
"I don't care what it sounds like to you since it doesn't concern you. Neville if you don't mind we really should be going," she rolled her eyes and ground her teeth with bitter displeasure.
"Hermione this is your last chance you've got to…" Neville began but Hermione's fiery glare stilled his words. So be it, he'd tried, this was her last opportunity and she was throwing it away. Then again it was Malfoy. He could turn the stomach at the very sight of him or first sound of his voice.
With a last sigh of regret Neville started to lead Hermione away. Gods if Percy ever found out, and Malfoy would probably tell him out of spite. Then again Percy wouldn't believe someone like Malfoy would he? Then again he might? The stress was beginning to wear on his mind and he was truly sorry he'd let Hermione talk him into this madness.
"You didn't answer my question Mudblood." Malfoy's insulting question rang out behind them.
That one word caused her to spin on her heels and frown fiercely at the prisoner. "You're in no position to play the lofty heir of the manor anymore Malfoy. Pureblood or not you're going to be put to death like the rest of your evil associates. I suggest you ready yourself for your fate instead of trying to hold on to petty prejudices."
"I'm never petty, just the opposite. There's nothing insignificant about me in the least, but I did ask you a question and you're the one being rude by not answering," he pointed out trying to mask his disdain for her with a charming innocence. He was insane, actually to be considering this, but if she agreed to his terms it would be worth it before facing the day of his death.
Underhanded affair that was to be sure, he growled mentally. He'd never murdered a soul, but damn Crabbe and Goyle, their father's had managed to survive the war and plead their cases for them, taking much of the blame for their sons actions. He hated his father as much dead as he had alive in that moment for the one time he would have been useful, shouldering the blame for what he himself had ordered his son to do, Lucius Malfoy had departed the earth at the hands of an Auror trying to escape Azkaban once again.
Yet he knew better than to blame his father entirely, he had been almost at the age of consent when he'd agreed to the plan to infiltrate Hogwarts and had allowed Professor Snape to bear the brunt of his own sins. Snape had always been there to promise help if he had needed it, and when it was too late Snape had done the only thing he could, he'd killed the man Draco himself was sent to murder. He'd seen or heard nothing from the professor since two weeks after that night, but he did at times wonder if the Ministry had captured him or put him to death. If so then Draco was decidedly more aggravated than before because if such a thing had happened then unbidden a niggling sense of guilt ate away at his consciousness. Nothing was weaker than guilt or remorse so he firmly banished such feelings readily whenever they tried to overtake him.
"What do you mean?" Hermione's sharp angry voice burst into his thoughts annoying him further.
"What would be in it for the poor man you marry? Obviously not money you intend to keep it all for yourself and the bloke couldn't spend it anyway locked away. So I have to wonder what you had in mind is all."
"Nothing," she answered bluntly and without remorse. "If he is condemned to death then he deserves nothing in return for his misdeeds."
"That is my point exactly. If he is condemned to death then what could he possibly gain from marrying you at all? To my way of thinking you should be offering something to sweeten the deal. Perhaps an evening's freedom, one last meal from a fine restaurant, another look at the city before he's blotted out of existence forever." Malfoy could tell he was making progress because he could all but see the wheels in her cunning mind turning around. That was the other maddening quality he hated about her and always would. She was too damned smart for her own good and readily loved to make him look the fool at every opportunity. Well perhaps now he had given her something to think on that she hadn't pondered before. Watching her entertain his words was somewhat amusing.
"Dinner, a tour of the city, like in a carriage ride?" she asked still grappling with the ins and outs of securing a prisoner's release for such a purpose.
"However you can manage it, but a carriage ride I suppose would be appropriate. Of course that is assuming the poor bastard accepts your terms," he muttered trying to appear unaffected and not wanting her to see just how much he was considering taking her up on her offer.
How bad could it be? Marry the plain little Mudblood and secure one last evening away from the dreary confines of the Ministry. Maybe he could even manage an escape. That was promising, the idea of escape. He had been rather tame lately and so they wouldn't suspect him of having certain other abilities to aid his cause. Suddenly signing his name to a piece of paper with the mousy Granger wasn't that bad of an idea after all.
"Why wouldn't he?" she asked him as though anyone would jump at the chance to marry her or leave their Ministry cell if even for only a few hours. She wasn't that far off and Draco was more than a little furious with himself that he was as desperate as any to get one last breath of fresh air.
"Well those are nice terms, nice, comfortable, unassuming terms, but what if the prisoner wanted more?" This was where she was a bit dense he decided when instead of looking shocked that he might be implying something sexual she appeared genuinely perplexed.
"I don't know what else he could want. A decent meal, a night out, the last taste of freedom, which would be a good deal more than he would deserve." Hermione hadn't thought of offering anything in return but grudgingly she admitted it might make whomever she chose a bit more apt to accept her proposal.
"Do I understand you both right?" Neville stepped in between the two now utterly confused. Were they actually considering entering into an agreement of sorts?
"Neville, be still. I'm thinking," Hermione reprimanded him suddenly mulling over losing a good deal of pride in asking anything of Malfoy.
She didn't like the odds that were stacking against her. Neville was right that this was her last opportunity and Malfoy was right, maddeningly so, that whomever she chose would expect something in return. What was so terrible in having the deed done and over with. Aunt June would be pacified, she would have her money for her organization and she could begin her research.
"Gods know I'll be regretting this for the rest of my life, but Malfoy would you be so kind as to help me get my inheritance? I'll agree to the terms you just stated if you agree to keep your filthy mouth shut and take this secret with you to the grave," she stated with authority and perfect grace.
She almost gave the impression of being haughty and for a moment she wasn't just a Mudblood or the bothersome Granger. She was a worthy adversary and nearly attractive in some unexpected way. That was the moment he knew he had been locked away from the world for too long as his mind had failed him when he most needed to keep his wits if he was finding something pleasing to think about Granger.
"I would like to discuss this further," he baited sounding nonchalant and unhurried. "Send Longbottom away and we'll work through the rest of the agreement."
"That won't be necessary," Neville said hotly coming to stand at Hermione's side. He wouldn't just leave her alone with any prisoner especially the one before them.
studied Malfoy for a moment. There was something she couldn't put
her finger on, but he was interested in more ways than one in her
offer. That alone made it worth it to hear him out. "Neville it's
all right. I'm not so fragile that I can't handle Malfoy and he's
chained to a wall. What can he possibly do?"
More than you wish to imagine, but Malfoy kept silent feeling a surge of triumph. He'd be free before the week was out and one of his greatest enemies would have helped secure his release. It was priceless really.
"Hermione," Neville began cautiously.
"Neville I'm quite fine. If I need you I will call," she stated straightening her back and not taking her gaze from Malfoy.
"You'll not try anything foolish Malfoy. There's no place for you to run and hide in the Ministry. Even if you get past this cell…"
"Yes, yes, I know you'll curse me to oblivion and send me to rot in the depths of hell," Malfoy finished impatiently for him. "That would probably be a much better fit for me as far as you're concerned, but right now I'm in the middle of conducting a business transaction and don't have the time to care if you're going to finally grow balls and make good your threat."
Neville's face grew red, but not with embarrassment, with rage. The days of having to meekly stand by and listen to whatever Malfoy said and remarked about his character were over. "One more word from you and you'll be shipped to Azkaban tonight and executed in the morning."
Malfoy gritted his teeth wanting to say much more, hurl vicious insults back at the pompous little Auror, but held his tongue. He couldn't ruin everything by losing his temper now. Actually pounding the sodding little prick's head against the wall was appealing, but that would have to wait until he tried to make his escape. Neville left then, making it known he didn't trust Malfoy and that Hermione was a fool for agreeing to listen to his terms in private.
"You have my attention," she said loftily sighing as though she was bored with the entire subject.
She took her time to assess him then. He hadn't changed much since their sixth year of school, taller perhaps, larger in the shoulders, but still the same disinterested sneer and icy silvery blue stare. His frame was gaunt though and there were shadows on his highly arched cheekbones and circles under his eyes. Of course most prisoners probably appeared to look so thoroughly disheveled. A ragged shirt too long and hanging almost to his knees was paired with an equally frayed pair of trousers that also appeared to be many sizes too large were all he wore. It was another disgrace he must face she knew for he had always been impeccably dressed during their school years.
"Now that we can discuss things of a more delicate nature," Malfoy said lazily walking closer to Hermione as far as the chains would let him. "If I agree to this do you promise to honor whatever terms I choose?"
That was a silly question she thought. Hadn't she just stated that she would honor all of his conditions? "Yes I already told you I would."
"Good, then I have your word no matter what you'll consent to abiding by our agreement?"
Her guard went up then, as she knew there was something more now that he was alluding to. Still she had to agree there was no choice now. Her time was almost up. "Yes," she said cautiously again.
He extended his hand then intending for her to shake it to solidify their bargain. "Then very well. Secure my freedom for one night. I want to dine in a restaurant of my choosing, one last look of the city for a good solid hour or more mind you, and what every groom expects of course a wedding night," he finished casually smirking when she froze at hearing his last request.
Her hand hovered just inches from taking his in a firm grip of contract when he had made his last stipulation known. "What, you can't be serious? I'm being more than generous letting you have a night away from here at all."
"You said anything, you already agreed," he pointed out loving the anger that was already bubbling to the surface around her. This might be more enjoyable than he had first thought.
"Wouldn't that be breaking some code of honor, lowering yourself to sleep with a Mudblood?" she asked hoping that it would make him come to his senses or he would admit he was mocking her to make her more uneasy.
"When you've been in here as long as I have, interrogated daily, one woman is as good as the next." That much was true to be sure, but to Granger's benefit she wasn't some whore off the street either so he could feel confident she was going to pass off some dreaded disease or be so ill used as to be pathetic.
Minutes ticked by and Hermione couldn't find a way to refuse or a way to get him to change his terms. Then it came to her. Neville would probably shackle him in the carriage and if she kept her distance after the night had ended he would have to go back to his cell and there would be no time for the latter part of the bargain. Feeling very sure of herself again Hermione gripped his hand briefly in exchange. "It's a bargain then?"
If he hadn't thought it would make her suspicious and want to renege he would have laughed at how victorious she looked. He almost felt sorry for her false security, as he had easily read her thoughts while she pondered her options. Poor little Mudblood, she actually thought she could win this battle of wills. Unfortunately she was setting herself for a grand disappointment.
"Yes, Granger it's a bargain," he said silkily so that Hermione did question her sanity for a moment if but briefly.
Freedom's consequence Love's Reward