DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

This was written for the 2007 Valentine's Day fic exchange on LJ. My giftee's request was "nothing happy, fake wands and Voldemort winning the war". Yeaaaah. Kind of stumped me for a while, and this is what I came up with.


He grinned lazily, the spoiled lips not knowing to savour fleeting amusement.

"Well?"

She licked dry lips with a dry tongue, her mouth suddenly spitless. "Run it by me again."

"Whatever you wish, darling. Incidentally, will you want me to call you 'darling' or perhaps 'my pet', because, you know…" He trailed his fingers along the foot of her bed. A stuffed bear caught his eye and he picked it up. "A teddy? I never pegged you for the type. But I digress. The terms are, come with me now. You will be mine, live with me. In return you receive the protection of my family, you and those dirty Muggle parents of yours - who, I might remind you, are currently drinking tea with my Aunt Bellatrix in your parlour."

He threw the teddy aside with a bored flick of the wrist. "If you decline then I shall inform Dolohov and Macnair, who are waiting outside, that you and your parents prefer to valiantly fight your way out of this ambush and we will all do our very best to kill you."

She licked her lips again, her desiccated tongue rasping against the delicate skin. "But… why?"

"Why you?" He cocked his head to one side and grinned again. "I'm not sure. Maybe it's enough that it would annoy the hell out of Potter." He moved closer, leaned in until their faces were separated by inches. "Maybe I want to watch you die inside. Reasons don't matter, Granger. I want to know your decision."

She nodded mutely and his smile was like brittle January sunshine. "Wonderful." He spat the word roughly, stuffed his hands into his pockets and indicated the room with his chin. "Get only what you want - your wand, books, the cat, whatever. I'll buy you what you need tomorrow."

He slammed his way out of the room. She hurried to her bureau as soon as his footsteps faded down the hallway, yanked open the top drawer and snatched up her wand. A ghostly silver otter appeared at her command and frolicked around her feet. She bent low to it and whispered softly, so softly, "Security Level, Alpha. Eyes only, Remus Lupin. Message: Stand down. The information was good and the bait has been taken. En route now."
Her Patronus hopped sinuously out the window and wove its way through the hedges surrounding her parents' back garden, searching for the indistinguishable shadows of Order members, specifically Lupin. She shut the window, removed her valise from the closet and sat down to count out the passing minutes. It wouldn't do for the Death Eaters to know that she had already packed.

8

A door slammed far away and Hermione marked her place in her book. She shut it with a snap and stretched, arching her back delicately over the arm of an antique chaise, the one she had claimed for her reading spot within a week of moving into the Manor. She held the position and stared at the ceiling, breathing slowly and fluffing her hair with her fingers. He hated her hair, hated the way it defied all attempts to constrain it, loathed that it resisted him when the girl herself did not. She laughed and called him irrational and fluffed it into wild disarray when she knew he was on his way to her quarters.

The door to her study opened and she was waiting, a glass in each hand. He took his drink - three fingers of gin, neat, splash of soda, splash of bitters - and inclined his head in silent thanks. His eyes roamed up and down her figure and she knew this was his way of saying he liked her new robes. She sipped at her aperitif to cover a smile when he shot a nasty look at her hair.

"Will you be dining with me tonight?"

He thought it over morosely. "Yes. I could use the break."

"Good. I'll let you get changed, it's chicken satay in the dining room in fifteen minutes."

"I like chicken satay."

"I know you do."

The only sound to break the silence was the clink of silverware. She took a small bite, watching him thoughtfully across the heavy table. He had changed from his dusty clothes into silver formal dinner robes, the satiny fabric catching the myriad points of candlelight and reflecting them back at her. The robes were new, a just-because gift from Hermione; they suited him. His hair was neatly combed and tied back, his face and neck bore signs of recently being washed and his hands were, as always, impeccable. He looked good and she smiled secretly, possessively. She liked to study him when he wasn't looking. His poker face was awful at even the best of times, and his guard dropped totally when lost in thought. Oh, the things he said to her when he said nothing at all.

Frown lines creased his forehead, the fingers of one hand tapped idly on the tablecloth and he chewed and swallowed his chicken methodically. Preoccupation oozed from him, along with worry. She pushed her chair back and moved to the side table to pour him a glass of wine. He looked up when she sat it in front of him; Hermione never served him herself.

Her fingers trailed over his hair and down his neck, finding a spot of tension and, almost imperceptibly, rubbing it with a thumb. "Do you want to talk about it?" she murmured.

He hesitated. "Thanks. I do."

She continued her absentminded light caresses without a trace of gloating as his words tumbled forth and she memorised them.

8

Hermione opened the door to Narcissa's sitting room and unobtrusively looked around, curious. This was only the third time she had been in this room and her second invitation. Narcissa glanced up from her desk by the crackling fire and rose to welcome her, indicating a cozy armchair near the fireplace. Hermione thanked her graciously, set down the knitting basket she had brought with her and settled into the chair, tucking her feet underneath her.

Hermione knitted quietly, waiting, as Narcissa worked in silence at her desk. She was working on her third row when Draco's mother cleared her throat softly in preparation to say whatever it was that had made her extend this invitation.

"It's been eight months since Draco brought you here to live with us," she mentioned. Hermione nodded agreement. "I needed to tell you that I have been… pleasantly surprised. Your behaviour, your manners, have been exemplary."

"I believe in making the best of an uncomfortable situation," Hermione said calmly. "Not that I wasn't horribly frightened, mind you. But Draco was keeping to the agreement we made and once I settled in, it seemed senseless to complicate the circumstances by being shirty and difficult."

"Quite mature of you. I appreciate it, you have, as you've said, made this matter much easier for all involved." Narcissa tapped a quill thoughtfully against her lips, choosing her words with care. "You must know that I was against this."

"Yes, it had occurred to me."

"Perhaps you've gathered that it was, truly, an unwelcome notion to all of us. Draco included."

The knitting needles paused. Hermione leaned forward, knitting forgotten. "But then…"

"We were being punished for our failures," Narcissa intoned dully. "Draco disobeyed his orders to kill Dumbledore, and Lucius - well, Lucius made many mistakes in his service to the Dark Lord. A Mudblood to sully the purity of an ancient lineage, to shame the family pride. Our master is greatly amused at the thought of you bearing Draco an illegitimate child of mixed blood; I confess that if it doesn't happen soon enough, we will likely begin giving you fertility potions to speed things up."
Hermione smiled consolingly. "Then we'll hope that doesn't become necessary."

Narcissa gazed at her searchingly. "The Dark Lord intended you to be our punishment, but, thanks to you, it has become almost a reward. You please my son. Unnatural as it is, I think he's actually grown fond of you."

"Pardon the contradiction, Mrs. Malfoy, but I think it's more that he's grown comfortable." Hermione picked up her knitting again and added, "A deliberate attempt on my part, actually. Call it an economic decision; I reasoned that the more comfortable he was, the more comfortably he would in turn treat me."

Narcissa relaxed. "And here I was planning to kill you tomorrow because I feared you were a spy for the Order. Instead, you are a manipulative, foul-blooded opportunist."

"It's good that we understand each other, Mrs. Malfoy," Hermione said, knitting complacently.

8

It was late, late at night and she was staring at the ceiling. It wasn't his custom to always greet her when he came back, she told herself. He slept in his own room as often as hers, she said quite reasonably. He hadn't promised to come see her that night, and anyhow, it had been a long week for him and he was likely curled up in his own bed at the moment, she reminded herself quite sternly. He was out on a mission and he might have been… delayed. She got out of bed and wrapped herself in a dressing gown, refusing to allow 'delayed' to be replaced by more ominous vocabulary.

She was staring out the window at the black night, trying to part the darkness to see where he might be, when her door crashed open. She whipped around and the sight of him - safe, whole, alive… She couldn't speak. A warm gush of gratitude bubbled up - oh, to hell with defence mechanisms, she could be defensive in the morning - and she rushed across the room with his name on her lips.

He was waiting for her. Her back was slammed against the wall, arms pinned to her sides, and stupidly she wondered why on earth he could think of kinky at a time like this. The selfish little cockweasel.

One pale, long-fingered hand closed around her throat. His face contorted with unrecognisable emotion. "They knew, Hermione."

She didn't struggle, even when his hand began to squeeze off her oxygen supply. "They KNEW, Hermione. The only person I told was you. They were waiting for us. You bitch."

Her eyes bored into his, never wavering, as spots began to dance before her eyes. He stared at her and she stared right back, unmoving. Suddenly he released her. She neither gasped as breath returned nor rubbed at her vulnerable, aching throat, and this control pleased her.

"How could I have?" she whispered, her voice raw and hoarse. She could easily pinpoint the moment guilt began to seep into those grey eyes, just half a second after he had stopped mentally cataloguing the wards around the Manor, that she never left unaccompanied, that a house elf apparated to her side the moment her fingers touched a wand. He swallowed.

"You're right. You - you couldn't have." He flushed and his gaze dropped. The side of his neck was scorched, red and white and oozing. Hermione pushed him toward a soft couch and called for one of the house elves. He sat in silence as she gently dabbed burn ointment onto the wound. She healed a cut on his arm next and was on the verge of stripping him to check every inch of skin when he stood abruptly and left her sitting room.

She examined her reflection the next morning as she sat at her vanity, brushing her hair. Purple bruises had blossomed on her neck overnight. Healing them was the work of a moment. She decided to leave them.

The door to her bedroom opened and Draco entered on soft feet, a package in his hand. She took it from him with a happy look and words of thanks, and tore into the wrappings because she knew it would please him. He took the large velvet box from her, opened it and withdrew a necklace. And such a necklace it was. She protested that it was far too extravagant and he ignored her. Pulling her hair to one side, he fastened it around her slim throat and turned her shoulders to see the effect. He nodded in satisfaction and kissed her throat, pale in between the bruises.

"It suits you," he murmured. "We're going to a dinner party next week. Wear it then."

She protested again, smiling through the words, and he shot down her objections firmly, though he knew she would not wear the necklace in public. Mistresses did not flaunt such gifts openly. He made his excuses for not joining her for breakfast and she pouted. He kissed her on the cheek before he left, walking with a lighter step than when he entered.

She turned back to her mirror and savoured for a moment the wealth of diamonds sparkling at her throat in the morning sunshine. An eulogy for Dolohov and diamonds for Hermione. That was what she called a win-win proposition. The bruising marred the effect but she briefly considered darkening them, to serve as a reminder of what happened when she became too careless.

8

Snape had been prowling the Manor for a week, alternately holed up in a make-shift potions lab in the dungeons and in her quarters for another examination. He would take a cutting of her hair, smell her breath, test the elasticity of her skin and disappear to his lab for another day or so. Then came the discussion of her diet, Draco hovering in the background and appearing insulted that Snape might be wondering if she was underfed.

At the end of a week, Snape entered her sitting room bearing a goblet of shimmering potion. Hermione sniffed it. It smelled of daisies and sex and white wine. Draco sat beside her on the couch, his shoulders tense, as Snape expounded on the potion's desired effects.

"Half a gobletful, twice daily for one week, during which time you'll need to abstain from dairy and alcohol," he said sourly. "Proceed to a full goblet twice each day on the second week. The potion is unnecessary come the third week, but you should have a serving of shellfish once a day. You may slowly reintroduce dairy products in the fourth week. Try not to cock up the instructions, unless of course you enjoy profuse vomiting until the effects wear off."

Their old professor extended the hand that held the goblet and she wrinkled her nose as she moved to take it. He sneered at her. "I assure you, Granger, it is quite safe. If you can manage to follow my simple instructions, you'll be expecting Malfoy's spawn within six weeks."

His hooded eyes met hers and his hand didn't yet release the goblet, waiting for her response to the code. She smiled at him, taking the potion. "Of course it's safe. The question, Professor, isn't whether I trust you, but whether you trust me. Tell your compatriots that I know my value here with Draco and send then my compliments."

She lifted the goblet in toast to him and drained it. Snape watched her, his face inscrutable.

That night she stood naked before her mirror, examining her flat stomach. She wondered what it would be like. She caught her own eyes in the reflection and stared this strange woman down, wondering at the lengths they were taking to ensure Harry's safety. Snape would have gotten her out if she had but said the word. She could have gone home - for a few days, at least, until the Order's loss of her desperately needed information lost them their tenuous ability to slow down Voldemort's inexorable advance. The Order was losing, day by day, and would have lost already if not for her work. Of course that wasn't an option; she wondered at Snape for even bothering to activate the safeword. One of these days she would look back and none of this would matter, because Harry would be safe. Or she would be dead. She shrugged, realising that either option would work for her, and made ready for bed.

8

They lay curled together, sweaty limbs entwined and her head on his chest. She liked to listen to his heartbeat slowly returning to normal. He stroked her hair gently, then pulled her face up until they were nose to nose.

"You made the right decision," he murmured. She couldn't think of a proper response and said nothing. He inhaled deeply and she decided that he was going to tell her what had been on his mind all day. "We took Grimmauld Place last night. There were no survivors."

Guilt.

She knew he had a mission, but nothing else. She should have pushed for information. Manipulated. Pouted. Kept him home with her and the promise of wild sex and a son.
She should have done her damned job.

"Potter wasn't there. I thought you would want to know that; he was your friend." She closed her eyes and ruthlessly stifled a sob of relief, not daring to ask what she desperately, desperately, desperately needed to know now that at least Harry was still alive. Draco ran a hand down her hair, smoothing it, and leaned his forehead against hers. "All I could think was that you could have been there, would have been there, most likely, if I hadn't taken you away. The Order is almost wiped out, the Dark Lord is making his final push next week. It's almost over, Hermione. Just remember that, love, it's almost over and you made the right decision. You're mine and you're safe. Nothing can touch us after next week."

She lay next to him and watched him fall asleep as her emotions warred within her.

Harry was alive.

No survivors.

Draco had called her 'love'.

8

She dressed with care, selecting painstakingly just the correct formal robes and accessories. Narcissa would be by in a moment to help her with her hair. It was a special occasion; tonight's party was being held in Hermione's honour. The Dark Lord himself would be attending, wishing to offer his personal congratulations to the newly expectant parents.

Tonight was the culmination of all her hard work, and Hermione was paying attention to every detail.

She stood with Draco in the receiving line to greet their guests, positioned just a fraction behind him as was proper. She was gracious and demure as she mingled, never allowing her eyes to quite meet those of the high ranked purebloods within the Death Eater echelon and allowing only a refined blush when their ladies complimented her on the stunning necklace of diamonds. By the time a house elf rang a silver bell to call the guests to supper, the verdict was in: Hermione was a smashing success.

Indeed.

Voldemort toasted the couple with a short speech on the benefits of obedience, after which Hermione engaged in pleasant small talk with her seatmate, Dolores Umbridge, on the clear ramifications of the Dark Lord's benevolence and how mutual cooperation would usher in a new era of prosperity and good will for those willing to work for it. Hermione was deep into an explanation to the junior secretary on how pointless all the fighting and petty terrorism was when, clearly, acceptance of one's position and working for the betterment of the wizarding community as a whole-
The dining room exploded.

Before the first shockwave of the concussion had reached her, she was under the heavy formal table, shielding her head with her arms. There followed a moment of deadly silence before the shrieks began. She couldn't see Umbridge's face from her vantage point but the woman's arms hung slack and blood dripped from the tablecloth's edge, pooling on the floor.

Someone let out an ear-splitting cry to battle and people began pouring into the room. Adrenaline surged. The rag-tag remains of the Order had gotten her message. She leapt out from under the table and met the advancing wizards, taking her place openly at Harry's side with her wand at the ready. Not that it was needed, every wand in the room swung in opposition gave a small pop and turned into a rubber haddock or a tin flamingo.

It was the party of her life, and Hermione had missed not a single detail.

Voldemort gaped in shock at the rubber toy in his hand, looking up when Harry's wand dug into the side of his neck.

"You lose," Harry said.

8

It was over. Time to look to the future, to let go of the mistakes and sacrifices and regrets.

Because, really, holding onto things too hard just makes you want to kill yourself in the deep silences of the night.

The cell block was dank and smelt of stale piss. Her stomach clenched and she swallowed hard several times, taking shallow breaths through a handkerchief perfumed with ginger until the moment passed. To think, Ron's mother had been through this seven times. The woman deserved an Order of Merlin.

A grizzled guard wizard watched her and waited until she flapped the handkerchief at him to get on with it. He opened a barred door and stood aside as she swept in, closed it and took up a position right outside.

"Bitch."

"Hello, Draco." He was seated at a table, that and two chairs all that relieved the stark cold confines of the visitor's room. "You look like hell."

"Fuck you, Mudblood."

She ignored that and sat across from him, tucking her satchel under her chair. He was glaring at her and had momentarily lapsed into a furious silence, which she planned to wait out. She knew he would start the conversation if she didn't; he wouldn't be able to resist.

He began to chuckle hollowly. "Never knew you had it in you, Granger. All this time." He applauded lightly. "Well played, you cold bitch. Is that why you're here? You wanted me to admire your handiwork? Then I officially bow to your surpassing skills. I'm going back to my cell."

"Sit." He had made a motion to rise and scowled blackly at the curt command, but did so. "We're not done yet, Draco."

He slammed his hands down on the table and leaned forward. "What I want to know," he hissed, "is when you started acting. Did Potter realised after I'd fallen… after you sucked me in, that he had the perfect spy on his hands? Or were you passing information the entire time?"

She tilted her head, assessing him coolly. "The entire time," she admitted. "Remus found out from Greyback that Voldemort was punishing you. Harry thought you might pick me, as a blow against him, and I talked Remus into allowing me to go undercover if you did."

He digested this information, his eyes boring into hers, and then his gaze flicked down to her midsection, hidden beneath the generous cut of her robes. "I imagine you've taken the potion already, then."

"I'm taking several, actually. Morning sickness is worse than I had imagined, if not for the potions I probably would have lost a couple stone by now." She ticked off a list on her fingers. "One for the nausea, one for vital nutrients and minerals, a basic restorative recommended for expectant witches-"
"SHUT UP." A chink appeared in his eyes, which had shown only the armour of fury until now. He was afraid, she realised. He asked roughly, "Why?" Was that a hint of desperation?

She hesitated. Hermione had, from the moment Remus had relented on their plans, maintained a starkly calculated demeanour, hiding behind a cold reserve to get the job done – but now she hesitated. "Because I couldn't bear it otherwise," she said softly, unable to meet his eyes. She stared resolutely at the table. This time he was waiting her out. With difficulty, she raised her eyes to meet his. "You wanted to see me die inside. You win, Draco. Heaven help me… you win."

She stood and walked out, the interview over. The guard wizard tipped his hat to her as she left, and came into the room to retrieve her satchel. He slid it over the table to Draco and addressed him for the first time since Draco has been arrested.

"Here's yer things, Mister Malfoy. Soon as you git changed into summat better, let me know and I'll take you up to th' Atrium. Blimey," the fellow said, breaking out into a grin, "I read about yeh in th' papers. Missus'll be right jealous I met yeh. Yeh got big balls, lad." He clapped a speechless Draco on the back. "Sorry about the mix-up, what with yeh being arrested and not. Ministry can't git owt right, thick-headed buggers."

The guard gave him his privacy, chuckling. Draco numbly opened the satchel. Inside, lying on top of his favorite summerweight wool robes, was a slip of parchment.
Consider the score settled. Don't cock this up, Draco, I spent every bit of my political capital in convincing the Ministry that you were my deep undercover contact. I won't be keeping you out of Azkaban again.

He folded the note and slipped it back into the satchel. All in all, he'd seen much worse declarations of truce.