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17 March. Sneaking.

This was a lot of fuss over a silly piece of jewelry.

I crept quietly behind Harry, keeping my eye on the dim point of his wand. It was easier to see when I wasn't looking directly at it, so I kept my eyes to the side.

The crumbling stone wall was about a meter tall. It ran the span of the Malfoy lands and connected with one of the smaller outbuildings and we followed it all the way to the house.

I was surprised to see the wall in such disrepair. I'd thought them much too vain for that.

"Lumos," I whispered softly, holding my wand and notes up to Harry's back, shielding the light from the darkness.

"Forward. Then left," I said.

Harry didn't wait long before scurrying to the back of the house. He quickly spelled the door open, and made a sharp turn left. "Ooph," he grunted, nearly taking a spill down the cobbled steps.

Usually I would have told him to shush, but I was too busy holding my wand, mouthing the words of the spell over and over again.

"Celodificio. Celodificio."

I whispered this as we walked down the steps and into the damp wine cellar of Malfoy Mansion. So far, the directions that Snape had given us were all correct. Funny how convincing Shacklebolt could be when needed.

There was nothing more important to the Order now than finding the Horcruxes. Slytherin's locket, which Kreacher had taken from Sirius Black's home two years ago, was one of them. We had all of us cursed Kreacher till we were blue in the face, but in the end it had been our own fault. Still, it had been a non-deadly lesson in constant vigilance. And now it was time to get it back.

Harry had the wards down on the false front of the wall at the back of the cellar in a few seconds. He left me breathless sometimes. His magical skill was becoming awe-inspiring.

He dug around in a trunk for a moment before coming up with a small wooden box. He flipped it open.

"Celodificio. Celodificio." I dared not stop the spell. It was the only thing shielding us from the many wards put on Malfoy Mansion.

Harry looked in the box. "Got it. Let's go."

My face was cold with the sweaty sheen that this whole mission was causing. I smiled in approval as I kept repeating the words.

Harry grabbed me by the hand and handed me the box, which I tucked into my jeans. We started slowly up the stairs. It was easy to make dumb mistakes when exiting, and we were both careful to watch our steps.

"Celodificio..." I wanted nothing more than to be a million miles away from this wretched place. We reached the top of the stairs and spilled into the kitchen. The door was in sight.

"Celo-" I gasped.

"What?" Harry whispered alertly.

As he said this, Draco Malfoy lunged forward from the shadows.


It all happened so quickly. I dug into Harry's hand, determined not to be separated from him. But my fingers were sweaty and I screamed as I felt his hand ripped from mine.

I clawed for him but I only felt air. I screamed for him but it went unreturned.

All I could think about was what they would do to Harry. I didn't feel the arms around my waist. I didn't feel the lean hand clapped over my mouth. And then, I didn't feel anything at all.

18 March, Day 1. Captured.

The waiting made it all the worse.

I was treated rather well. Much better than I had expected. I stayed with the house-elves, which was, I suppose, the worst insult he could give me, worse than being raped or beaten.

The house-elves were all very kind to me. They gave me nice bits to eat and a warm place by the fire. The smallest elf, Minko, curled up next to me, and snuggled his face into my leg. I forgot he wasn't Crookshanks and patted his head. I now saw that Kreacher had been an anomaly. These elves were not at all infatuated with their masters, the noble house of Malfoy. I silently thanked Dobby for helping foster that during his time here.

Still, this was all too painless and easy. I despaired at the thought of what would happen when the other shoe dropped.

The house-elf kitchen of Malfoy Mansion was kept clean and bright. I helped them by reaching the higher shelves and lifting heavy things. Of course they could do all that very well (and faster) on their own. But these small tasks had kept me from worrying all day, at first, until one of the older house-elfs brought me a tiny torn off piece of The Daily Prophet, saved from the dustbin. It was kind, to risk such a thing.

"Harry Potter's Fiancé Kidnapped!!!" the byline screamed. I couldn't read the caption of the picture, but I did see a corner of my smiling face, waving at the reader.

I didn't need to read it. I was sure it was a melodramatic sob piece about poor Harry Potter losing his Love, but I was certainly pleased to learn that he'd made it back in one piece. If Harry hadn't made it back safely, he would be on the front page, not me.

How had Harry done it? I knew he wouldn't have left me of his own volition. That's why I had thought he might have been hurt or worse. The kidnapping fabrication was of no surprise to me. The Order could not afford specifics, but this story had allowed the Prophet's readership to be on the lookout for me.

I was sure that the Order didn't presume that Malfoy would be stupid enough to keep me at the same place I had been originally caught.

When I woke up after Malfoy had captured me, I noticed three things straightaway. One, my wand was gone, as well as the map to Malfoy Mansion and the locket. Two, my clothes were all still on, un-rumpled and smooth. To the best of my knowledge, I hadn't been violated, which went against every Death Eater tradition I had ever heard. Third, my shoes were gone.

The wand was to be expected, but I still missed its presence sorely. I was useless at wandless magic.

The morning after I had been captured, Draco came down into the kitchen. He was wearing dark grey robes of superior quality, of course, and an arrogant look on his face.

I sat on one of the house-elf chairs and tried not to feel ridiculous with my knees up to my chin.

"Enjoying the company, Granger?"

"It's better than what may be found in other areas of this…house."

Inwardly I chided myself for provoking him. It would not help.

"My father is coming back in a few days."

I shivered slightly, but I was determined not to appear weak in front of Draco. Lucius scared me. With Draco I at least felt I could hold my own.

"Okay," I said disinterestedly.

"He'll take you to the Dark Lord." Grey eyes stared into mine.

"That's fine." I didn't know until I spoke the words that I truly meant them. I had always known that this was a possibility and I was determined to meet my fate with all the dignity I could muster. I would show the Malfoys just what a Gryffindor was made of.

"I didn't know Mudbloods could show such an appalling lack of survival instinct," said Draco.

I looked at him, determined not to answer. But he just stood there, waiting. Looking at me with his horribly pale lips twisted in revulsion, as if my very person repulsed him from across the kitchen.

We waited each other out. A minute passed, then two.

Finally I spoke before it became a battle that I could not win. I had waited long enough. Just to show him that I could choose not to answer if I felt like it.

"I think you'll find there's a lot you don't know about." Another stupid goad.

His lips smiled again, air rushing quickly out of his nostrils. And he left.

My insult hadn't fazed him. I wondered why. Draco had always been ready to pounce at the slightest impunity toward him.

19 March, Day 2. Haircut.

I heard arguing above me. Faint voices were muffled but getting louder.

"Why?! Why am I given impossible task after impossible task!"


"The Dark Lord always asks with purpose." This voice was oily and smooth. I thought it sounded familiar, but I could not place it.

"She's smart. And cunning, for a Gryffindor." Draco said this smugly.

The other man tsked. "Please. It's nothing you can't handle. This may be the path you have been looking for to-- "

Draco interrupted him savagely. "I can't be saddled with her. It could be months."

"Draco, you must take responsibility for the situation. You are the only one that can." A long pause was here. "You cannot ignore how...close you came to making him unhappy."

"I'm not surprised that I disappoint him. He always asks too much of me. Hear me clearly," said Draco, and his voice shook with…was it anger? Frustration? Something. "I cannot take charge of her. Someone else has to do it."

"The Dark Lord will not ask of you more than you can give. Besides, she is the key to…his release. Do not forget all he has done for you." I was sure that I had heard that voice before, but where?

The door to the kitchen opened. Draco was standing by Rodolphus Lestrange. Beside Lestrange was a young blonde woman whom I recognized as a Slytherin a few years behind me at Hogwarts.

Lestrange gave me the most cursory of glances before he stalked quickly over to me. I pressed myself against the wall, as far away from him as I could get.

"Your jumper, Mudblood. Give it to me." Lestrange held his hand out.

I said nothing, just pulled it off of me and handed it to him. He picked it up gingerly and waved to the girl. "Here, Helice."

Ah. Helice Rogan was her name. I remembered. I'd helped her once with an Arithmancy paper. Thanks very much, Helice.

Lestrange took a handkerchief out of his robes and rubbed the hand that had touched my jumper with it. He drew a knife from his robes. A long, thin, clip-point blade. He grabbed me quickly and I couldn't help making a low moan in my throat. Lestrange twisted his hand into my hair, savagely pulling a chunk of it upward, which he cut off with his knife.

He held the long piece of my hair out to the girl. "Helice."

The girl swallowed nervously, but she took it and shoved it into a small velvet bag at her waist.

"You'll never get past them with a Polyjuice Potion. They're not imbeciles," I said.

Lestrange laughed, a horrible, mocking laugh. And then he hit me. His heavy ring split my lip.

I gasped but did not raise my hand to my face. I felt the blood pouring down and over my jaw.

Draco's eyes were on me for some time, staring at me with his chin jutted forward. I refused to be the first to look away.

"You'd best learn to shut that gaping maw of yours. If you're dead the hair works just as well," said Lestrange.

Draco looked away from me, and back to Lestrange. He paused for a long moment, his nostrils flared when he spoke.

"Very well. I'll watch the Mudblood."

29 March, Day 10. Escape.

I had been there over a week. I was going mad. I was listless and bored. At first the house-elves had gone to great effort to amuse me, but now they accepted that I was far, far beyond their assistance.

In a bid to keep my mind occupied, I reconstructed some of my very favorite books in my mind. I reread Proust, Emerson, and Colebrooke as well as I could remember them. For fun, I mentally recited Jane Austen. I was never fond of her novels, but Austen's earlier essays such as Love and Friendship held a dear place in my heart. It helped to pass some of the time.

I hadn't seen another human being since that night with Rodolphus Lestrange and Draco. I often heard Draco's lissome steps above me. Lucius had not been home in that all time. I almost regretted Narcissa's death at the Brixton Battle all those months ago. Her snobbery would have at least given me something to respond to.

I made little bets with myself. If a fly lands on the blue bowl four times today, I'll go home tomorrow. If I step on every crack this Wednesday, I'll find a way to get out in the next hour.

I always kept my end of the bargain, but my bets did not pay off.

A few of the house-elves scrapped together a pair of socks for me. They were made of old napkins and handkerchiefs. One had a small D tailored in silk at the toe. At first I didn't want it touching my skin. But the more I thought about it, the more I relished shoving my foot into it and grinding it into the cobblestone every time I took a step.

I even tried to use Legilimency to communicate with Harry, Tonks, Lupin, anyone, but it didn't work, which was no surprise. I'd never used Legilimency, just read about it in a few books. I was desperate.

After I had exhausted all other options, I found the longest, thickest knife in the kitchen and started digging around the sunken window. It was a ridiculous Muggle effort, I knew, and most of the tactics I was employing were Dumasian. I was sure the place was charmed up and down to prevent such a thing, but within a day I could see light peeking through the stone and cement, and after a few more there was a hole large enough for me to fit through.

Lucky I was still bony. I had always been thin, but since the War started, I'd only lost more weight. I knew my hip bones stuck out, and my breasts were, of course, the first place to lose their fullness.

"Missus should not."

I was one foot out of the hole when I heard this. It was twilight – too light for Lumos. Too dark to be seen easily. The perfect time for a getaway.

I turned my head. "What?"

It was Minko, my lap-elf, a tiny little boy with delicate pink ears. I'd grown rather fond of him. He'd brought me a dab of salve every morning for my split lip.

Minko came forward and tugged on the bottom of my shirt. "Missus should not. She will get hurt."

"Shh, Minko. I've got to."

"Missus will be hurt." His little lip was jutted out and trembling.

I gave him a small smile, the best I could nudge out of my mouth, and pulled myself the rest of the way through the hole.

My feet had stung the minute I put them onto the grass. A Conray Curse. I should have known. Sadistic people. My feet would be bloody before I made it past the crumbling stone wall.

So, I ran. Ran as fast as I could. I was not an athlete though, and my speed was probably as fast as a man's brisk jog. I ran on the tips of my toes, trying not to let more skin than needed touch the ground. It felt like pins were poking into the soles of my feet with every step.

At first the adrenaline sustained me and I was able to keep running. But after I'd cleared the house, the yard, and was well on my way to the forest which separated me from the road, my steps slowed. I felt the blood, sticky and hot, squishing between my toes in the patchwork pair of socks.

So I ran flat on my feet, which only made it worse, it seemed.

It hurt badly enough that I had to slow my step. I was nearing the trees though…

I couldn't run anymore. Couldn't even jog. I could barely walk.

The pain was incredible, knifing up my feet and all the way through my legs. I tripped and fell, but pulled myself back up with considerable effort.

If I'd had my wand, I could have fixed my feet and kept going. The knowledge that my wand was taken from me by Draco Malfoy made me so angry that I was able to get a second wind.

It did not last long. My legs wobbled and refused to heed my order to stand. I was shaking with fury at myself, at my stupid legs, at the Malfoys for putting up such a brutal curse.

I was within throwing distance of the trees. I would be okay if I could get there. If I could only pull myself there. I tore at the grass, but it was not strong enough to drag my weight forward.

I heard footsteps and the unmistakable sound of a robe skimming over meadow.

"Ridiculous. I thought you were supposed to be intelligent beyond measure," said Draco nastily.

He knelt by me and I turned my face to the other side. I would never let him see me cry.

The crumbling stone wall was right in front of my eyes. I had almost passed it.

"Did you really think you could outrun a Conray Curse?"

I gripped the grass. My hands wound around the delicate strands, and they bit into my fingers.

"Did you really think I wouldn't hear your dirty blood calling to me? Dripping its filth all over my land?"

"Just do it," I said.

"Do what?"

"Get it over with." I was tired of the game, and I was in such pain. I could feel the blood pouring freely out of the soles of my feet.

"Oh no," Draco said pleasantly. "It won't happen now. It'd be too easy now."

I had lain quietly on the ground, staring at the stone wall as it blurred in front of me.

"When it's time for you to die, you'll know." He rocked back on his heels and scanned the horizon, the light dying just over the ridge. "I just hope I'm the one to do it.

He had picked me up and carried me back. He hadn't even bothered to restrain me to ensure I wouldn't physically attack him. That seemed to me the cruelest insult of them all.

I was so weakened by the loss of blood that I wouldn't even have been able to raise my hand to slap the curl of disdain off his face.

I grasped feebly onto the back of his robe in order to hold my head up, a matter of necessity to see where he was taking me. I felt horrible, sick to my stomach, to be held so close to Draco Malfoy. He never looked down at me, not once. I didn't move, so as not to give a reason to.

We followed the trail of my blood all the way back to the house.

He dumped me down next to the pump by the stables. He took off his boots, rinsed them under the water and washed the small streak of my blood off of his hand. My blood was not worth being washed down the house-elves drainpipe.

He held the side of his robe out from his body. "I'll have to burn this now."

The water was still flowing out of the pump. He pointed to my feet. The bleeding had slowed some.

I had to pick my legs up to push them under the water, and the pain was incredible. My socks were sticky with blood and dirt. The water rinsed over them, and pieces of white blotted through. I pulled the legs of my jeans up in a bid to keep them dry.

He scoffed and picked me up again, roughly, and he headed into the house. "I should have made you walk all the way back here, but he wants to keep you in one piece."

I did not ask whom. I already knew.

"I can't be blamed for your own stupidity, though. You can't fix a Conray Curse with healing charms. The poison will stay in your feet for weeks. But I suppose you already knew that," he said scornfully. I did.

He sat me down roughly on the divan in what seemed to be an office. Tapestries covered the walls, and the floor was inlaid with lapis and gold. There was a big mahogany desk which faced the divan.

Draco grabbed onto the back of my neck and lifted his wand to my face. I breathed in deeply and kept my eyes wide and able to catch every move he made.

"Nocusablo." He spoke the healing charm tersely, and I felt the jagged rip from Rodolphus Lestrange's ring heal.

For a brief second I looked into his eyes. They were ruthless and cool, but not empty, as I'd always thought them.

He pulled back quickly, and sat in the leather chair behind the desk. He placed his hands flat on the desk, and glared at me.

I was too tired to glare back. I leaned my head on the divan, and a welcoming blackness embraced me as if I were a child.

I awoke later with a start. I was lying on the floor against a wall in what seemed a very large bedroom. The curtains were open though, and the windows were dark. I sensed it was a late hour.

I rubbed my eyes and stood, or tried to. The shooting pain in my legs brought a cry to my lips and my aborted escape clearly into my mind. My feet were no longer in the socks the elves had made for me, though. They were neatly bound in some sort of white fabric.

The sound that startled me awake came again. It was Lucius Malfoy, laughing. I could hear him outside of the room, praising his son for catching me. I sat up, pulled my shirt up and back, hiding the few inches of skin underneath my neck, and clasped my hands under my chin.

Lucius filled the room when he threw the doors to the bedroom open, and stalked in. His hair fell sleekly over his shoulders, and at the sight of me he turned to Draco and smiled.

"The Dark Lord was pleased to hear of this, Draco." Lucius walked toward me, surveying my body.

"Unmarked." Lucius said this matter-of-factly.

"Yes, father. Except for her feet, of course."

"Well done, Draco. And you put the Portkey in Potter's hand with no trouble?"

"Yes, father."

Damn! A Portkey. That's why Harry had been gone so quickly that night.

Lucius laughed again. "And the girl cannot perform wandless magic! Perfect…it all went flawlessly. This will be a very pleasant bargaining chip, I believe."

And my knees began to shake. It had indeed been a trap, which I had been suspecting for some time now. But bargaining, what...oh, my God.

"She's not worth Snape," Draco said dryly.

They were going to offer me for Snape. Snape was in Ministry custody. They'd caught the traitorous wretch up a tree in Bristol months ago. I'd never been so proud of Moody and Tonks in all my life.

Draco tossed me a quick look. "The Ministry will never go for it. He's too powerful. She's just a girl."

Lucius dragged his cane over my hair, brushing it lightly. I steeled my shoulders.

"Never underestimate blind loyalty, Draco. If the Potter boy wants her badly enough, the Ministry would exchange them just to keep him happy. And if she is his mate, he will most certainly do it."

"You're wrong." I spoke defiantly, with feeling.

There was a blinding silence, and it went on so long that my arms tingled.

"Excuse me, Mudblood…I don't believe anyone asked for your opinion." Lucius spoke in his overly polite voice that was marked with a steely threat.

"Harry's not that stupid. He'd never trade me for Snape." As I spoke the words I prayed that they were true. Harry could be sensible…he had learned to sacrifice.

"Sacrificing one's self is very easy, Granger," said Lucius. I was angry that he was following the train of my thoughts so easily. "Sacrificing someone you love is difficult. Not to someone who truly believes in his Cause, but to someone like Potter, I think you'll find it will be nigh on impossible."

I raised my eyes to look at Draco as his father spoke the last few words. He was looking at me. Not smiling. Not enjoying himself in my pain. Why not? I was at his feet, in almost every sense of the word.

"Keep her close to your side, Draco."

Draco physically winced, though his father didn't see it as Draco was standing behind him. But he dutifully answered. "Yes father."

I was puzzled by Draco's behavior. I expected gloating and all I had received was anger. And I hadn't ostensibly done anything, besides of course being who I was.

"We're done here, son." Lucius and Draco began to leave the room. I heard Lucius speaking as they walked out of the room.

"She's not to my taste, at all…but I suppose if you wanted, no one could hardly blame you for bruising the fruit a bit."

15 April, Day 27. Waiting.

Draco didn't do what his father had so implicitly given him permission to for. For that I was grateful, and I thanked God for being a Muggle-born who, in Draco's mind, was too dirty even for that.

But still, I hated it. I hated being his little shadow. I hated that I had to sit by him. I hated that I had to sleep in his godforsaken room, on the floor, like a dog. I hated that I had to depend on him. I hated that he wouldn't even take the risk of levitating me when he wanted to go somewhere. No, because my feet were still injured, I had to be carried by him. At first his touch had repelled me enough that I went completely stiff in his arms, but I grew so used to it after a few weeks that it seemed almost natural.

The house-elves changed my bandages twice a day. They also brought me my meals, which were served on my own set of clearly marked dishes. Draco wouldn't want to eat off of something my lips had touched. The house-elves also helped me bathe, thank God, though Draco insisted on keeping the door open. I wouldn't move a muscle unless I was sure he wasn't looking.

The bedroom I had been brought to after my feet were hurt was Draco's, and since I was his little albatross, it was where I slept as well. He slept fully dressed. So did I. He didn't snore or breathe any deeper or slower when he was asleep, so I never knew when he was asleep or not. It felt strange and awkward to sleep in the same room with him.

I would sit in whatever place he plopped me, usually a chair. I would grab whatever book was within reach, desperate to have my mind occupied. At first he screeched at me not to touch anything, but I hadn't listened. He could take a lot from me, but not books.

Draco never left his family's property. He seemed antsy and unhappy. He would read for a few minutes, then write for a few minutes, and then scream at an elf for a few minutes. It was tiring, really, to watch him.

Worst was when he would stare, moodily, at the wall. Usually with his feet propped on the desk in the office he had first taken me in.

I had read all of the books in reaching distance in this room. I was busily counting the lines in the tapestry on the wall when he spoke to me. His first words to me other than "get up" or "move" in three days.

"I bet you'd thought they'd come for you, didn't you?" He smiled slightly.

Well, that was an easy one to answer. "No, I didn't."

He scoffed. "Come off it, Granger. It's got to hurt knowing that they haven't even tried."

"Not at all. It's too risky, and I wouldn't ask it of them," I said.

"I thought Gryffindors were supposed to be loyal," said Draco.

"They are." I squinted at him. This conversation was making me angry rather quickly. "They are showing loyalty to me."

"Interesting way of showing it," said Draco.

"Dedication to the Cause is loyalty to me! It's my wishes and they will respect them." As I said this I prayed silently that it would be true. "They know I'd rather die than give Snape back to Voldemort."

"You're an idiot, Granger." Draco seemed disgusted. "A foolish child."

"Oh please," I said quietly. "If you'd like to talk about idiocy, I can give you a better example than me."

Draco's back went rigid. "You'd better watch yourself, Granger. I'd hex you with no hesitation. The Death Eaters all know your mouth, and they wouldn't blame me at all."

"Really? It seems like all they do is blame you these days."

"Shut up, Granger. As if you know anything about the situation," said Draco.

"I certainly do. We receive intelligence reports, you know."

Draco was silent, and he glared at me.

"You're their pawn. A tool. Not even respectable enough to trust with a real duty. Not after you blundered it with Dumbledore," I said.

His face was white with rage, but he gestured toward me.

I laughed bitterly, enjoying the feeling of having the upper hand. "You think that babysitting a wandless witch is any sort of responsibility? I rather think it's to keep you out of their hair."

"Shut up, Granger."

"Like a toddler and a shiny object," I said.

Draco leapt out of the chair he was sitting in and grabbed my shoulders, pulling me up to face him. My feet were still injured and I couldn't put my weight on them. I would have fallen if he hadn't been holding me.

"You fucking bitch. I'd kill you if I could."

I certainly believed that. "They'd never give you that honor."

"But if I could do it…." He grasped my shoulder tighter and my eyes winced with pain. I was flush up against his body. He was much taller than I, always had been, and I had to look almost straight up to see his face.

I absurdly focused on his features. Why? His pale, pointed chin was inches away from mine. Draco was not muscular like Ronald had been, or wiry like Harry was. He was thin, and reedy, and tall. His skin was flawless, all light smoothness and grey eyes that were looking at me as if he'd like to slaughter me at that moment.

He had very long eyelashes that were dark. "Strange," I said.

He was breathing heavily, and I felt the mood in the room change. It went from roaring hate (which I was well used to between us), to something foggy and unreadable. Something that I could not recognize but nonetheless frightened me deeply.

27 April, Day 39. Party.

We had been trained by the Order to count the days if we were ever captured. This helped me immensely, as it gave me something to concentrate on besides worrying about the Order and my feet hurting.

I had been at Malfoy Mansion over a month. The days bled into one another, and I was surprised that I had been kept alive this long. I still slept on the floor in his room, but one of the house-elves had brought me some pillows and blankets one day while I was out.

Every day I dreaded that I would be taken to Voldemort.

During one evening after dinner we were in the office in our usual places, and Draco had plunked a paper onto my lap.

"Thought this might interest you, Granger," he smirked. We spoke a little more in the days, now. Even arguments and insults helped the minutes pass by faster.

It was an issue of The Daily Prophet from a month ago, just a few days after my capture. On the front was a picture of me, well, not me, but whom I assumed was a be-Polyjuiced version of Helice Rogan. Accompanying her was Rodolphus Lestrange. She was wearing my jumper as well.

I scanned the report beneath it quickly. Ministry officials had been dispatched to the North to find me, where I was apparently last seen. All this was ancient history by now, I was sure.

"Dangling the carrot, I see," I said disgustedly, and pushed the paper away from me.

"I'm sure your precious Potter was the first one on the broomstick to find you," said Draco.

"I doubt that. Harry's focused on more important things." I was always guarded when I spoke to him, always anxious to downplay my role in the Order, careful not to reveal anything I oughtn't.

"The Horcruxes," said Draco blandly.

I carefully schooled my face to reveal no surprise, but I'd had no idea that Draco had known about them.

"The locket. I-We're not stupid, Granger. That's why it was locked up, for Merlin's sake. You must really think I'm thick."

I shrugged my shoulders. Time to move away from this subject.

"And anyway, he's not my precious Potter," I said, grasping at straws.

Draco rolled his eyes. "Once again, I am not thick."

"You are being thick because you aren't listening to me. I am not engaged to Harry," I said.

"Please. The Prophet is practically press agent to your wedding ring," said Draco.

"Well it's not as if I have any control over what they print!"

"Morag, quit screeching!" Draco looked extremely annoyed.

I lost my temper. "I have to scream at you because you never listen to a damned thing I say and I am sick of trying to speak plainly! And I am sick of this house, sick of my feet being in these goddamned bandages, and most of all I am sick to DEATH of your sneering face!"

And I pushed myself off of the divan and on to my feet, which instantly caused me to fall to my knees. My feet were much improved, but still too tender to walk on. I didn't care though, and started crawling across the floor to the door on my hands and knees. This was no time for pride. I was leaving his presence, and if I had to drag my lifeless body over hot coals to do it, then so be it.

I made it into the grand hallway, steadily crawling, my fury seeping out of me quickly. I hadn't heard Draco follow me out of the room, and for that I was glad. Perhaps I'd get a minute to myself. I stopped, and the marble underneath my hands blurred. I felt like a fool, and pulled myself up to sit against the wall. Crawling on my hands and knees in Malfoy Mansion. I wished I could laugh at the ridiculous visual I'm sure I presented.

But I couldn't laugh, as I was crying too hard at the moment. I put my head in my hands. What was to become of me? When would I go home? What would Voldemort do to me when he finally did get his hands on me?

I don't know how long I sat in that hallway and wept. I shivered. The tears had soaked into my thin shirt. The marble was cold underneath me, and the halls of Malfoy Mansion were always chilly. I was so engrossed in feeling sorry for myself that I did not hear him approach. All at once his arms were around me, and he was lifting me up.

He carried me to the settee in the hall. It was much warmer in there. And instead of dropping me from mid-height like he always did, he crouched over and set me down slowly. He was being gentle with me. I looked to him for a clue as to why.

Draco's face was close to mine again; just like that time after he told me he wished he could kill me. He smelled like he always did – like pine trees after a rain, sort of wet and minty. And his eyes, the eyes that I had realised last time were not empty, were dark and unreadable.

All of my weight was on the settee but he remained posed, as he had carried me. His arm was still around me and his hand was under my knees. When I realised this, it shocked me out of whatever it was that had held me under its spell.

"What are you doing?"

His arms jerked out from underneath me. "Shut up. I want you out of the way before my friends come." And then he stalked away.

He hadn't said anything about friends all day. I shuddered to think which friends he was talking about.

After he had lifted me onto the settee, he went into the small parlour in the hallway. I heard the fireplace roar to life, and Draco was speaking. Must have been fire talking. I heard the voice of Blaise Zabini and a few others that I didn't recognize.

They, all of them, arrived around 11 pm. Right before they came Draco practically threw me into the hallway parlour, and tersely told me to not bother screaming as everyone coming wouldn't help anyway. He disconnected the fireplace from the Floo Network. He warded the door not to open for me, and then slammed it hard enough to make the picture frames shake.

"Wooph!" The slam had awoken the only portrait in the room, a tall woman with Malfoyish blonde hair. "A Mudblood! In Malfoy Mansion! Merlin help us," she said dramatically, as she swooned onto her chair behind her. Perfect.

I heard Zabini's pretentious voice first, and then the simpering one of Pansy Parkinson. I counted five distinct voices altogether including Draco's, two of which I didn't recognize.

They were loud, crashing about, and I heard the tinking of crystal glasses. Good, I hoped they got nice and drunk and had a Wizard Duel and killed each other. I pulled myself up onto the sofa and tried to think of a way to crack out of this room.

If only I had been better at wandless magic. I had cursed myself for my stupidity in many things in the past month, but none so much as my inability to perform the smallest trick without my wand.

A loud crash sounded, followed by a slurred "Montague, you tosser!" So Montague was one of the voices I had heard.

I closed my eyes and tried to sleep, but it went on and on. The clock on the mantle in the room read 3:23 AM and they were still at it, blasting music loud enough to make my head ache. I heard the group telling Montague goodbye, and the heavy front door slammed, so perhaps now they were leaving.

But then I heard the handle of the parlour door twisting. I sat up quickly and turned to it.

Eloy Mulciber. Son of the Death Eater Mulciber, whom we'd fought against in the Department of Mysteries. Eloy had light brown hair and was huge, tall and muscular, just like his father. Eloy had been a few years ahead of me at Hogwarts, and I'd seen him set a niffler on fire once just for laughs.

"Father said you were here, but I didn't believe it." He had a sharply square jaw, and pointed teeth. He swayed a bit as he stood at the door. He was clearly pissed.

I said nothing, and gripped my hands into fists.

He walked over to the sofa and sat down. "Not so tough without Potter, eh?"

I decided to get it out in the open. "You're not to harm me. Voldemort's orders."

Eloy's eyes flashed. "You'd best learn some respect, Mudblood. Don't ever speak the Dark Lord's name aloud."

I did not want to set him off, so I once again said nothing.

Suddenly, he leaned forward and grabbed my left knee, pulling it toward him, and I screamed.

"I won't harm you," he said, his teeth glistening as he grinned at me.

"No. Don't." I spoke as forcefully as I could, though I was literally shaking with fear.

It all moved quickly then. Eloy pulled my knee up under one of his arms and pushed me down with the other.

"This isn't harming."

I tried to hit him in the face but he blocked it, laughed and gripped my arm until I cried out again, this time in pain.

"I rather think a Mudblood slut like you will like it."

I threw myself off of the sofa and grabbed at the handle of the door. It was locked, and I remembered that Draco had warded it not to open for me. I started to push myself as far away from Eloy as I could.

Eloy was laughing, and he went to his knees on the floor, and pulled me by the legs toward him. Like Crookshanks with a piece of string.

I shouted at him; what, I'm not sure. I remember telling him to stop as one of his disgusting, huge hands snaked under my shirt. I remember that I screamed until my throat burned when he wrapped his hand around my neck.

And then, the door flung open.

Draco stood at it, his robes disheveled, his hair mussed. He held his wand in front of him, and his eyes were murderous and glinting.

"Siconium! Mulciber, you great fucking idiot!" Draco screamed at him, very obviously out of control. Eloy was suddenly flying off of me and across the room.

"Malfoy…!" Eloy tried to stand.

"Infligoris! What the hell did you think you were doing!" Now Eloy's face was dashed into the wall where it left a dent in the plaster. His head was bleeding, and he was lying on the floor, unmoving.

I sat up, and noticed Blaise and Pansy behind Draco, eyes wide.

"You paunchy bastard! Audasolum!" Eloy's body rose into the air, and then dropped with violence.

Blaise leaned over Draco's shoulder. "You'll kill him."

"Shut up!" Draco spun around and pointed his wand at Blaise.

Blaise put his hands up in front of him, but the expression on his face was haughty, like it always was. "I'm leaving, and I'll take Eloy home. And you…really should calm down and get some rest, Draco."

"When I want your opinion, I'll ask for it!" Draco was still huffing with rage.

"Okay," said Blaise neutrally. Blaise did not look at me as he walked into the room and cast a lifting charm on Eloy's gigantic bag of flesh.

Draco pointed his wand at the fireplace, and it flashed a bright orange. "Get out."

Blaise grabbed onto Eloy's arm. "Mulciber's!" And they were gone.

"You too, Pansy." Draco all but snarled.

"But Draco, we haven't…" Pansy whined.

"Pansy, shut your mouth. And get out, now." Draco was no longer yelling, but his voice was nasty and threatening. He did not look at Pansy.

Her pink lip quivered expertly but she stepped over to the fireplace and wibbled out "Parkinson's," and she was vanished, spinning into the fire.

Draco spelled the fire closed as soon as she was gone. And that is when I burst into tears in front of him for the second time that day.

He didn't say anything. Didn't mock me for my emotional outburst. He walked over, and crouched close to me. He reached his hands forward and picked me up. I couldn't help but wrap my arms around his neck. Because even though I hated him he had still stopped Eloy, stopped me from being raped or worse, and I was so unbelievably grateful and glad. I clutched myself closer to him, unable to stop myself.

He held me close as well. He smelled like alcohol and Pansy's perfume, which I knew so well from school. Draco took me into his bedroom and set me on his bed. I rolled onto my side and the tears continued to fall out of my eyes, quietly.

We both said nothing for a long space of minutes. Then, he spoke.

"Are you hurt?"

"No," I gulped.

I felt his weight on the bed, and I felt the breath from his body on my hair.

"Don't." When he spoke, his voice was quiet, almost whispering.

"Don't what?" I said, exasperatedly through my tears.

"Don't cry."

His words had the opposite effect, and I only became more upset. He was trying to comfort me. I believed he was sincere, even though I knew it to be impossible. I cried harder when I remembered how I had felt when I saw him at the door, when Eloy had just finished pinning me down so completely.

Draco had seemed to me a pale avenging angel, angry and dreadful and beautiful. I had felt relief when I saw him. I had known that I would be okay if Draco was there. I was scared then and I was still a little and I wanted him close to me now. That knowledge confused and astounded me, and I was not comforted by it. I was terrified.

10 May, Day 52. Raid.

Stockholm Syndrome was a well-documented phenomenon in the Muggle world. They liked to cite on programmes how one of the hostages had been engaged to her kidnapper, years later. But I read about it at the library once, and it wasn't true. It was a myth. Some translator got the words mixed up. No one ever fell in love with their kidnapper.

I remembered my favorite line from Austen's Love and Friendship, and I repeated it to myself several times a day.

Run mad as often as you choose, but do not faint.

I steeled myself to my new mantra.

With time, my feet had healed. One night they were still aching, and the next morning I was walking around. They had still been tender, but it was nothing unbearable.

This was convenient, because after the party incident, relations between Draco and I had imploded. Rather silently.

We never spoke. Not even to fight or snipe at one another. I had nothing to say to him. I couldn't imagine what he would have to say to me.

By unspoken agreement, I still stayed by his side. I followed him when he left a room. I picked up a book to read if I felt like it, though, and I firmly shut the door to the bathroom when I needed to bathe. He did not yell at me if I left the room to grab something, because I always came back.

I was free to be away from him, to rid myself of his presence to a different room, and now I found that I could not.

I slept in his bed. Every night since the party I had done so. He never touched me; I would not have stayed if he had. But I had asked him with my eyes the first night after, and he did not argue when I tucked my legs under the covers. I was afraid to be away from him now.

I never stopped thinking of escaping. I observed tiny bits of information that might prove useful, filed them away in my brain for later. My mind still ran with wild situations and plans to get back to the Order. But as long as my feet were on Malfoy soil, I knew I would be at Draco's side.

The bathroom that was attached to Draco's room was large and sparse. The tub was deep and I wished I could take a lengthy soak in it, but I didn't dare. One night as I was scrubbing industriously at my elbow, I heard a clatter and stomping through his bedroom.

"Missus is in her bath," shrieked the house-elf who was sitting watch for me in the room.

"Shut up," said Draco, and I heard a sharp cry of pain from the elf.

The door to the bathroom flew open and I held my hands to my chest.

"Get dressed," said Draco.

"Why? What's going on?"

"Look, do you want to stay here and greet my Father's friends by yourself? If not, come on." He looked at me like I was a simpleton and then left the bathroom.

I shot out of the bath. Damn. The elf had taken my clothes to be cleaned whilst I bathed. I wrapped a large towel around myself.

He was waiting for me outside of the bathroom, and didn't seem to notice my lack of clothing.

"What is—" I began to speak, but he thumped his hand over my mouth and widened his eyes in frustration.

Somewhere in the house, I heard footsteps.

As we walked into the hall, I heard voices downstairs. "Fuck," said Draco, and his lip curled.

"A glorious, glorious cunny, that one…damnable Muggles, where do they come off?" A leering voice floated up the stairs.

"At the heads, just like the rest!" Laughter.

He grabbed my hand and towed me into a room I had never been in. It was down the hall from Draco's room, and in the dim light, I could see a sweetly feminine bedroom set, a vanity covered with ornate bottles and ribbons.

"Mudbloods! Where is Potter's Mudblood! We would all like a little look, I think." I froze. The words frightened me not half as much as the tone.

"They're in the middle of a raid," said Draco softly.

I held onto his hand more tightly. Death Eater raids were legendary for the chaos, death, and destruction they wreaked.

"And where's the whiskey? We've got too long a night left to be without that just yet!"

Draco pulled me into a roomy closet, filled to the brim with robes and shoes. He carefully pushed aside a row of clothing, and opened a small door in the wall behind it. He had to nearly fold himself in half to fit into it. I bent and followed him, arranging the clothes behind me to hide the door again before I did.

"Damned nice've Lucius, letting us stop here…"

It was a tiny space, pitch black, and musty. I felt his knees shoved up against the wall; he was sitting on a box of some sort.

"Lumos." He held his wand up. "You've got to fit in here more if the door is going to shut."

There was no room at all to get nearer, so I pushed myself into the only area of available space.

He didn't make a sound as I crawled onto his lap, and I carefully kept my towel tucked around me. He just braced himself against the wall with one hand and pulled the door quietly shut with the other. "Abdanima."

"What? Why Abdanima! Perlude is a better hiding spell," I whispered furiously.

"Granger, shut it!" He shook me. He was facing the other side of the wall. I was sitting across his lap, facing the door.

Someone was coming up the stairs. From the sound of it, several someones.

"I suppose he could have taken her off somewhere…"

"Well, Lucius said they'd probably be here."

"Nox." I barely heard him mouth the word. There was darkness, with the tiniest sliver of light at the bottom of the door.

"The young Malfoy's inconsistent. We all know it."

"Mmm." The doorknob in the outer room twisted and opened slowly.

"Ostendio," said a deep voice. I prayed that Draco had cast a good enough spell to shield us from this one.

"Anything over there, Mulciber?"

Mulciber! Eloy's father! My arm was already crooked around Draco's neck, and I pulled it tighter.

"No, just an empty bedroom," answered the older Mulciber.

"Ah, well. More's the pity. But there's plenty of fun to be had this evening elsewhere, I'd wager."

The two Death Eaters laughed heartily and I heard their footsteps descend down the stairs as they chattered about the next poor Muggle family they were targeting.

They stayed over an hour downstairs. Laughing, joking…toasting the 'Dark Lord'. I barely breathed in all that time. But finally, I heard the chairs scooting and some of the voices left.

"Granger, you're choking me," said Draco.

"Oh! Sorry," I whispered, as I let go of his neck.

We were still and unmoving until we heard the last of the voices fading from the house.

"I think that's it," he said. "Lumos." He pulled out a thin gold tablet, and flipped up the top of it. He scanned it for a moment. "Yes, they're gone."

"That's how you knew when I ran away," I said.

He didn't answer, and put the tablet away. "Well." He reached over for the handle of the door.

"Wait, don't! Let's just wait a little longer. Just to be sure."

He paused, and then nodded in agreement.

"Whose room is this?" I asked.

"Don't play dumb. You know it was my mother's."

"It was nice of her to think this space up for me. Very convenient," I said.

He nodded very slightly.

"Draco..." I didn't know what I intended to say – something reassuring I supposed. The soft light from his wand glinted off of his hair. "Thank you, for this. And I…I never said thank you for the last time either. Why did you do it? That's twice now…you didn't have to do it. But you did and I'm…so grateful." I pinched my mouth shut to stop myself from babbling any further.

He did not answer for some time. I self-consciously tucked my towel around me tighter.

"She used to hide my Christmas presents in here." He cleared his throat quietly. "She thought I didn't know about it."

There was a lot I wished I could have told him at that moment. Like how I knew he could be good if he wanted to, that I had seen it in him despite all his efforts. I knew that he wasn't a killer. He was nasty and conceited and at times very cruel, but that he had an unmarked arm still and for that…for as long as that arm remained untouched, he would have a modicum of my respect.

But I didn't say any of that. Instead I did something I wasn't expecting, something I couldn't believe I'd done, neither at the time nor an hour nor a year later.

I put my hands on either side of his face and kissed him.

At first he didn't respond, and I thought I had made him angry. But after I tried to pull away, he enclosed me in his arms, crushed me to him and kissed me back.

I'd kissed boys. A few in my school years, a few more since I'd been graduated. But it had never felt like...this.

He was at once both strong and subtle, and his lips felt like the softest, sweetest, thing I had ever had on my mouth. I shuddered as he took over the kiss, moving his arms to hold me around the waist. He was muscle and sinew, soft robes and reaching arms. I pushed my body closer to his, nestling into him

But that wasn't enough. He pressed me up against the wall of the tiny closet and tilted my head so he could fit his tongue more deeply into my mouth. He kissed me desperately, clutching at me like I was going to disappear at any second.

His body was warm, and I slid my hands around his neck. I lifted my head from his and looked into his eyes.

Grey eyes fringed with black looked into my own, widened and almost horrified, reflecting my own face back at me.

That was when I'd realized what I'd done.

12 May, Day 54. Release.

I left at twilight. I had nothing to weigh me down, which would help me get home faster. Draco had brought me a pair of his mother's shoes, thin kid slippers. I hopped on one foot at a time to slip them on. They were a bit small but they fit well enough.

They were charmed against the Conray Curse.

He walked me as far as his lands went. I was concerned for his safety, but I had not argued when he'd told me that morning while we were still in bed that he was letting me go.

"They'll kill you," I had said.

"Doubtful. He wants to keep my father happy," said Draco. He was shirtless, with just the loose sheet tucked around him. His body was just as his face was, lithe and smooth, fair and perfect. "Anyway, I told them not to give me the job. Till I was fucking blue in the face, and they didn't listen."

"Hmm." I leaned my head onto the pillow and looked at him. "Was I that horrible of a captive?" Now that I knew I was leaving, I could afford to relax a small measure.

"No. Just annoying, as usual."

I scoffed. "I was not."

A house-elf came in at that moment, and Draco had barked at him to get out, now.

I tried again. "I was a very good captive, I thought. You had no reason to refuse to watch me," I said, smoothing the sheets over my breasts.

Draco shook his head slightly. "I did."

"On what grounds?"

He looked down at me. "I knew this would happen. Or something. Like it, I mean."

"What?" I sat up. "I hope you aren't trying to say that I've harbored some ridiculous crush on you all these years, because I haven't. I thought you were a little shit at Hogwarts."

He rolled his eyes. "Is that what I said? Use your brain."

"Oh," I said, not fully comprehending. "Ohhh." I looked down, to the side, anywhere other than at him. After a safe amount of time, I glanced over.

He was gazing at me. Intense and unblinking.

"I tried not to. For quite a long time. You should know that."

I had stared back, and was not afraid to this time.

We sat like that for minutes that seemed endless. "Come back with me," I finally asked, although I had already known he would refuse.

Draco shook his head. "I can't. I was born to this." He looked out the window, and for a moment, he looked very young to me, just the scared little first year on the train to Hogwarts, insulting arbitrarily to cover his own fears. I knew that now.

But I understood loyalty. That was something I knew very, very well.

We followed the crumbling wall to the edge of the Malfoy property. I was dressed in his old Hogwarts robe, the only thing small enough in his closet to fit me. My Muggle clothes were hidden underneath.

"This was the first thing I saw when we came here that night," I said as we walked by the dilapidated stone wall, stepping over large chunks of rock that had fallen off it. "I'd wondered why you let it deteriorate so badly. Why isn't it fixed?"

I looked up to him, and he perched one leg on the low wall. He was striking in the dark grey robes that he so favored, the sun's dying light on his face.

His eyes scanned the horizon as I'd seen him do once before. "Because it can't be fixed. It's so far gone that it's just not worth it anymore. Maybe if things were different…" He kicked viciously at a loose stone, and it broke off, rolling to my feet.

He gestured grandly to the deteriorated wall with his hand. When he spoke it was sarcastic and contemptuous. "From which I came, as you see."

I picked up the stone, turning it over in my hands. It was dark, craggy, and worn on the side that had been exposed to the elements on the outer edge of the wall. But the side that Draco kicked loose was pale and smooth except for a few bits of cement still clinging to it. Unharmed. Perfect.

"Here." Draco held out my wand to me. I nearly wept with joy as I took it into my hands.

"Thank you." I slipped it into the wand pocket of his robe. Even though he hadn't worn it in years, it still smelled like him. I clasped it tightly around myself.

The sun was setting, and I knew that I needed to go very soon, but there were more words behind the grey eyes of Draco Malfoy, and I waited for him to speak them.

"Also…here's this." He dangled the locket in his right hand. Salazar Slytherin's locket. The Horcrux that contained a piece of Voldemort's soul.

"Draco…no." I was horrified, even though my pulse leapt at the sight of it.

"I want you to have it." He tersely jiggled it a little.

"I can't, much as I want to take it. They'll kill you."

But he had already slipped the golden heart around my neck, and tucked it into my robes. I was not strong enough to take it off.

"It's yours now. I just hope you'll…" Draco lightly ran a hand over the back of his hair.

I smiled.

"Shit. I don't know what the hell I'm saying." He looked at me.

I reached up on my tiptoes to kiss him. "I do."

Today. Now.

They had all been overjoyed to see me. The Ministry had been negotiating my release for weeks. Voldemort wanted more than just Snape for me; he wanted Snape and the rest of his brood still in Azkaban. And the Ministry had been considering it for some time, as Harry had said he would walk away from the whole mess unless they got me back.

How nice for them all that I had been able to escape.

Harry had clung to me when he saw me, a tear or two eking out of his eyes as he did. "I knew you were too strong for that bastard. I knew you could do it," said Harry proudly.

I laughed nervously. "Yes…"

I had been at the Malfoy Mansion less than two months, but it felt like a lifetime.

I gave a long interview to The Daily Prophet about how I had been captured and treated very strictly by one Draco Malfoy. I told in great detail how the brainless party of Death Eaters had unthinkingly left one of the fireplaces connected to the Floo Network. Stupid Death Eaters. Ha bloody ha. They were the laughingstock of the Order and the general public.

I had wanted to protect him as best I could. Whatever I said worked, because Draco came to me not a week after he had let me go, unscathed and held blameless for my escape.

I do not trust him. I have never trusted him. I will never trust him completely. I will run mad as often as I choose, but I will not faint. I tell myself this every time I hear his knock at my door.

I love him.

The Horcrux is still around my neck. When Harry has found the rest of them, I will give him the locket. And then it will all be over. But until then, I will keep it, nestled between my breasts. The same place where Draco nestles his head and kisses me tenderly.

He curses at me, calls me Mudblood, Bitch, and Whore. He tells me he wishes I were dead, that he wishes he had never laid eyes on me, that I have bewitched him and stolen his life from him. He throws things. He screams.

He tells me that he loves me and that he cannot bear to be away from me any longer. He begs me to run away with him, even though we both know that we can never outrun our names.

He is jealous and unreasonably demanding of my time. He comes to me with increasing frequency. He is being less careful to avoid being seen. I have told him to be more cautious. He tells me that he doesn't care any more.

He all but attacks me when he comes into my flat. He holds me tight, so tight, that sometimes it is difficult to breathe. He kisses me until I am soundless, senseless, and immobile. He makes love to me in my bed, and I know that I will never make love to anyone else again.

He tells me that he can't live without me and I believe him. Soon someone will find out about us, because we are both being reckless and foolish and then…and then.