DISCLAIMER: I don't own Harry Potter or any other character by JK Rowling.
"Twenty Sinful Nights with Draco Malfoy"
There were no words. Her mind was blank at first. All she could do was sit at the table near the bed and bite anxiously on her nails, staring at his perfectly sculpted ass. And yes, it was perfect, if not a bit pale. She smiled to herself at the thought then quickly realized she was watching her worst enemy sleep, naked, in the room where they'd just had sex. Not just any tragic-mistake, what-the-hell-was-I-on kind of sex either. It was glorious, stimulating, positively scintillating…
And it killed her more that she didn't feel shame. She didn't want to leave. She wanted to watch him sleep, because as long as he lied in that bed motionless, quiet, she could still pretend she had not slept with the cruel, thick jerk she'd grown to despise. She had slept with a boy who had the potential to be something greater in her life. As long as he slept, she could, and did, love him and as she went to open the door to leave, she took one final look at the boy she loved and her smile became a tear.
She hated to admit it but this was the first and last time. Whatever she had felt for him in body had been withered by guilt, by the sad reality that awaited her outside that room: Ron.
2 Months Ago...
Hermione realized the change in Draco sometime before Christmas but it was the very last day before break that she truly felt so much pity, she confronted him in front of the boys' bathroom. He looked so worried, anxious, like something was after him in an empty hallway. He clawed at his arm and she knew. The Dark Mark.
"Malfoy, are you alright?" she asked, feeling her lunch attack her from the inside out for talking to him, knowing he was ready to respond with disdain and tasteless wit.
"It burns," he whispered, begging for help with his eyes. She had never really stopped to look him straight in the face, not like this.
She took his arm and rolled back the sleeve, and there it was. The Mark growled at her, even though it did not move. It knew what she was and wanted nothing more than to discard her.
"Come with me," she said, and led him into the girls' bathroom, checking for Myrtle within the stalls. It was empty. She ripped off his sleeve and wet it in the sink then placed it back over the Mark. She whispered a cooling spell and the water on the sleeve became instantly cold. She wrapped it around it. He winced, quickly moving his hand over hers as if it would stop the feel of the stinging cold.
He sighed but she knew it was for her benefit. The Mark was more than skin-deep. It tore at his very principles, or else he would never have asked for help. The heat would never stop until Voldemort got his way.
And then he said something she never thought she'd hear him say. "Thank you."
That was the final straw. It was getting too creepy for her. She gulped and nodded and avoided his eyes as much as possible. She went to leave but he caught her arm. There was a moment of awkward silence and then he said, "Don't leave. I mean, not for a bit? Please."
"Draco, have you gone mad?" she scoffed.
"I'm not kidding," he begged, then whispered, "I'm sorry. Please, just don't leave me alone. If not for my sake, do it for Potter."
"What are you going to do to Harry?"
"Hermione, believe me. I don't want to do anything. Make sure I don't," he said, gripping her arm. He looked so sad, so desperate.
She felt slightly compelled. His touch was drilling into her, but it went away too quickly. He realized he looked pathetic and let go, straightened up, and cleared his throat.
He went to apologize but she cut him off. "You really don't have anyone, do you?" He shook his head quickly yet reluctantly. "I'm sorry. I can't help you. I won't tell about the Mark but I can't…" She stopped mid-sentence.
That was all she said and left. Christmas break started and she stayed with Harry. Why, she wasn't sure. Something told her turmoil was coming their way. She said her goodbyes to Ron and Ginny and Neville and the rest, only to leave the comforts of Gryffindor Tower again in search of Draco.
She told herself she was worried for Harry. That she was finding out Draco's plan by getting close to him. But she secretly wanted to enter that dark world. It was so enticing that she had to taste it, like the ultimate piece of chocolate cake. It called to her.
She pretended to walk the halls like she was in a hurry to get somewhere, but secretly she searched for him. Ironically enough, she found him in the library, in the farthest, most secluded desk. The entire library had emptied with the holidays.
She still walked with caution between the book shelves. She pulled out one near where he sat and whispered his name. He didn't hear, too lost in the chatter in his brain. She looked down at his hands. He had one holding his temple as he stared at a book. The other trembled on the desk, fiercely. His ring sometimes knocked on the wooden desk, making a large clacking sound. He didn't seem to notice.
"Draco!" she hissed louder.
He jumped up, startled, falling back on his chair. She giggled then went to help him up. He laughed a little too but never so reluctantly then pulled away when he saw her smile down at him.
"Get off me!" he yelled.
"I'm not on you!" she responded. So much for sneaking by, she thought.
"Well stop touching me!"
"Oh I'm sorry! Am I touching you?" she yelled, poking him fiercely and repeatedly in the gut.
He made a noise like he was gagging at something disgusting. He shushed her and began to pick up his books in a huff.
"Draco, stop," she said solemnly. "I think I can help you."
"Help me with what?" he growled back, to the brink of spitting.
"The thing on your arm? I think I can help you."
His anger and disdain suddenly flew from his face and he looked at her just as sadly. He gave a little nod and gestured towards the door. "Meet me at the dock on the lake at 7."
And he left.
Hermione waited on the dock for a few minutes before he came. She spent it thinking what to do. She didn't really know how she was going to get his plan out of him. She tried to focus on Harry, how she was going to save him from any incoming pains.
"Did you bring it?" he asked. She snapped out of thought.
"No," she said haughtily. "You have to answer me first."
He sighted. "What do you want to know?"
"What you're planning to do to Harry."
"Are you kidding me?" he said and chuckled. It was an evil sort of chuckle that made her eye twitch slightly and her fingers curl into a fist. "What the hell have you been smoking, Granger?"
"Tell me or I won't give you the cure."
"What am I thinking? There's no cure. The Dark Mark is forever."
She felt such pity. He looked so downtrodden. "The Mark maybe but I can calm the voices. You're not the only to go through this, Draco," she said, taking a step towards him. He didn't back away. She put a hand on his shoulder. He didn't take it away. She gave him a hug, and he gave in.
Her hug, simple as it was, was ever so new to him. She didn't want something from their hug, didn't have malevolent plans. She wanted to help a friend, and now she wanted to help him. He hoped to what little God listened to him still that right now, she didn't mind being his friend.
When they broke from their hug, he couldn't look her in the eye. It was like he was the bad child and she was his mother, catching him in an illicit affair with cookie dough. But she knew he'd never had those moments and his mother was not one to care too much about what this was doing to him.
She doubted his mother even knew how horrid he looked or felt. She thought, Maybe money doesn't buy everything. But she quickly dismissed it as cruel and they went on their separate ways.
Draco caught her again two days later and they spoke of spells and charms and anything they could discuss in secret. Hermione was determined to help him.
Christmas break was over too soon and Draco returned to being Draco. He tried to talk to her a few days into January, after avoiding her like a leper in class. Even Ron, who lived in the clouds over the Great Hall, noticed his reclusive posture, his reserved vision… his jumpy responses to simple gestures from fellow Slytherins. When he finally found a time she was alone, it was under the tree in the courtyard near the lake. She was reading, as he always imagined her doing.
When he went to talk to her, Ron and Harry came up behind the tree and greeted her and suddenly he felt ridiculous and went to walk off. But it was too late. Ron had seen him.
"You!" he called out. "You coming after Harry again, is that it? You coward!"
Draco winced, knowing trouble was coming. Hermione, knowing he was coming after her not Harry, jumped up to stop Ron. She had forgotten about the train ride, how Draco had beaten Harry so shamelessly. Strangely, she didn't feel any defensiveness towards Harry, nor hatred toward Draco. It was as if something in his eyes told her and her alone that he was sorry and that he did so because he had no choice, because it was his nature to do so.
It had turned into a battle of wits, and Ron was gravely losing. The courtyard soon filled with students, hordes of them running in from inside the school. The Slytherins gathered behind Draco, as always, more so now that he had committed truly to the Dark Lord. Hermione hated knowing that. She knew Harry suspected it and that she of course knew it before ever seeing the Mark, but she hated knowing it for sure without a doubt. Before, there was hope that he could change. But there would never be.
And then it happened, the worst thing she could have ever imagined. The instant those words left Draco's mouth, she knew this was the end of an epic friendship.
"I challenge you," he shouted in Ron's face.
For a small moment, she felt the sparks flying through the air between them. Pure hatred.
"Challenge me? What are you, mad?" Ron replied, giving a nervous chuckle. He was truly terrified, she could tell, but she knew Ron better than most.
She had to step between them, if only to save him. "There hasn't been a challenge at Hogwarts in 96 years, Malfoy. Someone died the last time," she said, her bottom lip trembling. A death was the last thing the wizarding world needed. Losing Ron was the last thing Harry needed. And most importantly, letting him sift away through her fingers after so many year would be the most excruciating thing she'd ever feel.
Draco furrowed his brow and hovered over her menacingly. Strangely, she did not fear the look in his eyes. She despised it, yes. But she couldn't fear it… him. It was as if all those years of thinking him a coward took their toll. She had no choice but feel sorry for him.
"Then it's about time we had another one. I refuse to take it back. I challenge you," he said.
"Would you stop saying that?" Ron hissed. The other students looked afraid as well, even the Slytherins. Crabbe and Goyle looked very much lost in translation. Hermione would have translated but she didn't speak idiot. Not fluently at least.
"Do you accept?" Draco asked, looking over Hermione's head, to Ron, who looked slightly dazed and now sadder than a boy who'd just lost his puppy to an incoming locomotive. He was still caught in the shock of the aftermath.
"I don't really a choice, do I?" he said quietly. "I accept your challenge, Draco Malfoy."
Draco smirked devilishly. "What's the stake then? Obviously, it's not money."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at Malfoy. The need to growl suddenly rose in her but she suppressed it. She wanted to reach for her wand but she knew Ron's life might depend on her stepping aside that very moment. So, she lowered her head and moved.
This was an even larger mistake. Draco saw the way Ron looked at her as she moved aside. He saw her pain and self-doubt. And he saw a weakness.
"I wager Granger," he said with a smirk.
Hermione's heart suddenly exploded. The shattered pieces flowed off with her blood and into her stomach and seemed to want to resurface.
"What?" she said, suddenly breathless.
"It's the only thing of value you have, Weasley. I wager Hermione," Draco said, haughtily. Hermione didn't know whether to be flattered or completely appalled. She was pretty sure she was the latter, but she couldn't help but imagine what sort of life she'd have with Malfoy. She'd have money, that's for sure. But would she be happy? She realized she wasn't breathing and turned around slowly toward her friends.
Harry gulped, despite not really knowing what was going on. When he thought of challenge, he thought of dueling which he had done, with Malfoy, on various occasions. But these were not the same. Ron looked paler than ever. He looked like he'd just swallowed his own vomit and regretted having that 4th piece of pie at lunch.
"Stop this!" Hermione yelled. "I refuse to be a part of this!"
Draco laughed, like a lizard attacking a fly. "As if you have a choice!"
"No… There must be rules! I refuse to be Malfoy's… sex slave," Hermione said, feeling her own pie resurface. Her face seemed to scream the words raw citrus to Draco. He was slightly offended but his calm exterior didn't show it.
The Slytherins all looked increasingly smaller in the background. Had any of them any balls to stand up, they would have hit Malfoy over the head with a plank rather have this blasphemous challenge hanging over one of their own. A pureblood and a Mudblood? Impossible! Unless Draco had something dastardly in mind…
Draco had given another laugh. "I'm not so desperate I need a virgin for a mate. Get over yourself, Granger. I'd rather hump a tree."
His words struck Hermione more than she thought they would. She expected him to compare her to some vile thing but his exact words caught her attention.
How did he know she was a virgin? And why the word mate, as if he believed in some sort of fate behind love? The way he'd said his disdain, it was as if he had a hidden agenda. Did he have a crush on her, maybe? Is that why he started such a ridiculous thing?
She quickly snapped out of her train of thought, seeing his devious smirk re-emerging. Dumbledore was coming down into the courtyard in front of Filch and McGonagall.
"What's going on here?" the professor yelled. He stopped and saw their shocked faces and instantly knew, in that special way Dumbledore could read people, that something terrible had just happened.
"A challenge was struck, Professor," Draco said proudly, as if it was a sign of his daring and not his stupidity.
"WHAT? Mr. Weasley, you agreed to this?"
Ron nodded, still slightly in shock. Dumbledore sounded angrier than he had ever been. Even when faced with Voldemort, he had never turned this particular color, like a cumquat. Draco wasn't sure why it reminded him of a cumquat. He wasn't sure what color cumquats were. He just loved the word. And the thought alone made him stifle giggles.
The entire crowd gasped, as if Draco had gone so mad that he laughed to himself about something so terrible. He didn't notice. For all he knew, he really had gone mad. But if he won, he'd have Granger to help him, without having to hide or anything. She'd be free to help him hide the Mark, free to hug him on piers without end or fear of onlookers.
He realized then, he did it for the hugs. He loved having her in his arms, the way her hair felt and her skin smelled. And it dawned on him that maybe… just maybe… he was taken with her. That made his skin crawl.
Even after the crowd parted and he and Ron were being taken to Dumbledore's office like two prisoners walking death row, he only thought of her.
Ron began to think of her as well, of what it would mean if Draco had her, if it was even possible. Would it mean she'd leave Gryffindor? Would she become his slave and be forced to bow down to him like a dog?
The moment Dumbledore slammed closed the doors to his office, both snapped out of thought. They sat before his desk, but neither could remember the walk there. They were too busy coming to terms with their own minds.
"Mr. Malfoy, are you sure about this? Do you understand the consequences of these actions?" the Headmaster asked.
"Quite," he answered.
"And what will HE be wagering?" Ron spat back.
"There is no second wager in a challenge, Mr. Weasley. You have offended him in some way. The insult was put to him first. He is simply responding, demanding retribution, in this case the relinquishment of Ms. Granger to him in body and mind."
Ron scoffed as if the entire thing was ridiculous. "So if I win, I get nothing. If he wins, he gets Hermione?" he yelled, mortified.
"Oh no. If you survive, you get to keep your life. If not, then who cares if I get Granger or not? You'll be dead."
"Dead?" Ron gulped.
"Now now, Mr. Malfoy," Dumbledore interrupted. "Death is not so common. It's just a possible outcome."
Ron looked at Dumbledore like he was calling a dragon a kitten, even as the dragon ate him piece by piece and cooked the rest by a campfire.
"Pardon me if I FREAK THE HELL OUT!" Ron yelled even louder.
"The rules of the challenge are open to all wizard-kind, Mr. Weasley. I hold no authority to it. It has been so long since there's been an official challenge, there's almost no precedent," the professor said, resting back in his chair and sighing. "The battle will be where, then?"
"Somewhere public would be nice," Draco said, eerily cheerful. Ron sputtered a response.
"Very well," Dumbledore agreed. "Mr. Weasley, it's up to you to choose an elemental battlefield."
"A what?" Ron asked, realizing he really had no clue what he'd just been entered in.
"Water, earth, fire, or sky. Pick a field."
"In the sky," Ron said, knowing he was best on a broom.
"Excellent," Dumbledore said, more somber and quiet. "Three days is the standard. We'll meet at the Quidditch field after such time. Till death or surrender."
Hermione had been pacing outside the portrait of the fat lady when Ron came walking towards her, his mind still elsewhere. He raked his hand throw his hair, looking at her like she'd just shot his brother and he was trying to hide the evidence to save her. This was Ron, she thought. He'd do anything for her.
"Hermione, I'm so sorry you got dragged into this," he said. That she did not expect. In fact, she was quite sure he would have asked her what Draco wanted with her or if there was something she wanted to tell him for why she was all of a sudden the object of his desire.
But no. Ron was not like that. It was not that he was not bright, though he was prone to strange moments of blank thought. He merely took the blame, as if she really had killed her brother. If only he knew she'd kill a part of him instead.
"Don't Ron. We'll get out of this just fine," she said with a fake, yet reassuring, smile.
She did not follow him through the portrait however. She went back to that tree where Draco had come to talk to her. She didn't know why but she figured he'd come back to her. He had to, in her mind. She needed an explanation.
Surely enough, as if she had called to him in her mind, he came walking towards the tree. She looked around. They were alone for now, but that was not enough for him. His walk turned brisk and soon, he was almost running towards her. She stood, frozen, her fist tightening around her wand. He mouthed out something in the distance and his broom flew under him, lifting him up cleanly and swiftly directly towards her.
He wrapped a quick hand around her waist and she knew to mount. She quickly wrapped her arms around his waist. She'd always been terrified of flying.
"Draco, what are you doing?" she yelled into his ear. He smiled, she knew, and took her higher and higher into the sun. She didn't dare look into the sunlight and shut her eyes tightly. Draco did not bother to turn his eyes from his target. She felt the broom turn sharply when they reached a certain vertical height.
When she opened her eyes, she was on the roof of the grand central tower of Hogwarts. She quickly dismounted and bent over to catch her breath. She didn't realize she hadn't been breathing.
"ARE YOU MAD?" she screamed.
He looked apologetic and so tired. "It's an old trick. If you want to hide where you're going from onlookers, fly to where they cannot see you and swerve. The sun is the perfect blind spot…"
She interrupted, "…because it's in plain sight?"
He smiled at her genius. "Exactly."
"Draco, what are we going to do now? How could you have done such a thing?" she pleaded as she rested her eyes in her hand. She wondered if he could see her as horribly as she saw him. The sun must have temporarily blinded him, she thought. But it hadn't.
She marveled at his genius, and suddenly realized it was rooted in evil. And her smile faded just as quickly as it came.
Her eyes covered, she fell back onto the old tiles on the roof. He ran to catch her before she slid but ended up kneeling before her, his pride down.
"Hermione, I ask you to go along with this. I know it was stupid but it's too late to take it back," he said, brushing a strand of hair back.
What sort of deluded relationship he'd conjured in his mind, she didn't know but contemplated often. She hated how he could turn cold and hot in an instant.
They were friends. Period. He had no claim on her, and she could not allow him to have any claim now. Somehow, even friendship felt dirty to her.
"Are you going to kill him?" she asked timidly, feeling like a little girl in front of him. She noticed he'd changed into his Quidditch wear and looked a tad dashing, just as Harry and Ron did when dressed. It brought another reluctant smile to her face and looked away.
"Would you hate me if I did?"
"Of course!" she shouted.
He looked down. "Then I won't kill him… Can I maim him at least?"
She looked at him crossly. "No! Please. I'll ask of him the same."
"In three days we fight, Hermione. Does the oaf even know what he's fighting for?"
She looked down again and whispered sheepishly, "No. He apologized to me for getting me involved." He gave a small, sharp laugh. "He meant well, Draco! And he doesn't know."
There was a small moment of silence. "What is it we're hiding here, Hermione?"
"I don't know… but it hurts more to keep."
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART TWO:
--Who will win the challenge and who will keep Hermione?
--Will Ron ever find out about Draco and Hermione's talks during winter break?
--Does the Mark ever come off?
--What secret is Draco hiding?
--Does he really care about Hermione the way she thinks?
--What's the significance of the words Draco used?
--Why did Dumbledore seem a little sadder when Ron suggested the sky field?
--And finally… what will Harry do when he finds his best friend in the embrace of his worst enemy?