Thanks to Lady Laurelin for beta-ing!
She was being kept in the cellar. Truthfully, that was a place Draco Malfoy didn't like at all. He spent much of his time in his bedroom where he was provided with daylight, rather than darkness and walls of thick impenetrable stone. This, however, was one of the few instances when he had visited the chambers below his manor. Notably, one of them was when he was to fetch a goblin named Griphook. This time however, instead of forcing someone from the cellar, he was to keep them securely locked inside.
Malfoy magically lit the lamp brackets as he descended down the long grey stone hall. His footsteps echoed eerily, causing him to shiver and stop in place to peer behind. The cellars reminded him much of the dungeons at Hogwarts: however, at school he was often accompanied by students. On the contrary, the Malfoy cellars were creepy, quiet and lonesome. 'What should I be afraid of?' he thought, as he looked behind himself once more. 'The house elf?' He laughed aloud, causing his voice to journey to the end of the hall and meet him back in the middle.
Finally reaching the cellar door, he unlocked it with a tap of his wand. He stood in the archway, staring at the human mound in the centre of the stone floor. She was propped on her side, arms uncaringly assorted, motionless above her head, and her pale face was aggregating with the concrete ground. Admiring from a far, Malfoy couldn't help but smirk; he felt that this was positively the most unusual thing to happen to him. He had a prisoner in his cellar, not only a prisoner, a Mudblood…Hermione Granger.
He barked a laugh aloud as he contemplated on how he had come across the Mudblood two days earlier.
It was three weeks after the final war had ended. The Weasley's were still in mourning long after Fred's death had tragically come about; it seemed so difficult for all to come to terms with not having his bright, boisterous personality and candid jokes. George was the worst off. After a week of staying at The Burrow mourning with the rest of his family and few friends, he had migrated to the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes store in Diagon Alley. No one had seen or heard from him since.
Hermione had just returned to the Burrow after a week in Australia locating her parents and trying to remodify their memories. She returned to find exactly what she had left behind – a house in shambles, consisting of eight people in bouts of tears, bad moods or silence. Of course Harry was also at the Burrow; however, though he was coping with a loss like all other Weasleys, it seemed his mourning had ended.
"I feel like I shouldn't be here," he said to Hermione, as he walked her through the front door.
Flopping down on the Weasley sofa, Hermione sighed briefly. "Maybe we should get out of their way?"
"And go where?"
"Grimmauld Place?" she suggested.
Harry pondered on the idea for a moment. "I'd rather not be there at the moment…" Truthfully, Harry didn't want to be anywhere that reminded him of death. That included Grimmauld Place, as well as The Burrow.
Before Hermione could suggest anything further, Ron had traipsed in the room and stopped very suddenly, staring at Hermione. "I didn't know you'd arrived," he said wish a sheepish smile. Sitting beside his girlfriend, he gave her a shy kiss on the cheek. It had been blatantly obvious for the past few weeks that Ron's personality was completely altered. Neither Harry nor Hermione knew what to expect when speaking with him. Hermione had particularly noticed that he showed no effort in trying to coerce her affection any longer; but of course, as she had told herself before, this was all due to Fred's death - not anything on her behalf.
It was evening at The Burrow, and Ron and Hermione were in the backyard lying up at the orange, red-tinged sky. It would have been a beautiful night if the atmosphere weren't still solemn and miserable. Hermione fiddled with the grass beneath her as a gnome dawdled past her feet.
"Ron," she began. He continued to stare up at the sky, not acknowledging Hermione at all. "I think perhaps…we should move out together, get our own place."
Ron took a long moment before replying, Hermione was sure he hadn't heard her at all until he said, "Move where, Hermione? I don't have any money."
Hermione peered sideways at Ron. She felt awfully uncomfortable. "Well, I've got plenty of money saved, and if Harry wants to move in, all the better."
"Oh, that sounds fantastic," said Ron sarcastically. "I don't want to spend my life using your and Harry's money. I think I'll stay at the Burrow, thank you very much."
"Ron, you wouldn't have to live off of us all your life. You'll have a job eventually won't you?"
"I don't want a job, Hermione, I don't want to move out. I don't want anything. What I need is to stay at the Burrow with my family. If you and Harry want to move out together, that's fine." And with that he left.
Hermione spent much of her time after that contemplating on what she would do; she was seriously considering asking Harry to move out. The next day she ignored Ron altogether and decided to venture to London to look for a place to stay. She began with Diagon Alley.
When Hermione arrived at Diagon Alley it was late afternoon and she still found the place to be completely bursting with liveliness. The shops were packed to the brim with wizards and witches purchasing books, sweets and broomsticks. The cobbled street was congested with bustling busy people and there wasn't a grimace to be found. The end of the war had bought a forgotten feeling to all people; they no longer had to live in fear. Although it was known that there would always be dark magic, people were caught up in the undeniable fact that the most powerful dark wizard of all time was finally conquered.
Squeezing herself through the copious amount of witches and wizards, Hermione finally reached her destination: Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. She wasn't greeted with the expected sight but rather much the opposite. Where the large sign 'U-No-Poo' had once graced the window, it was now carelessly covered with a sign that read: 'Closed down forever. Get lost.'
She couldn't help but notice a lot of people were staring bewilderedly at the sign as they wandered past, and plenty of children were uttering loud expressions of grief.
"George," called out Hermione as she rapped on the door. "George, it's Hermione, let me in." When there was no answer Hermione brandished her wand and started expelling charms at the door handle. It popped open with a click. "George?" she called once again as she popped her head inside.
The shop was dimly lit by a ray of sunshine peeking through the sign on the outer window. Hermione could see all the shelves and bins full of joke products were in all tact, ready for purchasing, but the front room was empty of George. Slipping through the door, Hermione apprehensively made her way to the back room. She was fearful in what she'd find, however once the sight had greeted her she felt it was expected.
George was sitting on the floor moping between two cardboard boxes. He had an assortment of old apple cores by his feet, and his wand was carelessly pointed at a rat that was trying to scurry away from hexes.
"George." Hermione stood in the doorway looking down at the miserable sight. Eventually he looked up, tried a slight smile, and then decided it didn't feel right. "Hi," he mumbled.
"What have you been doing?" she asked as she eyed the apple cores. It was a pointless question. It was blatantly obvious that he hadn't been doing anything at all. His clothes were dirt ridden, as were his hands and his face, and cheeks seemed red - undoubtedly from crying. "I see you've closed the place down…" George nodded feebly. "You know Fred would have wanted you to keep it open, continue inventing and selling."
"What do you know what Fred would've wanted?" he said softly. "Fred's dead."
Hermione felt slightly taken aback. "I think you should know better than anyone what Fred wanted. I'm just saying that it was evidently obvious from where I'm standing that he would have wanted you to continue what you started." George didn't speak again after that. Even after what felt like five minutes of solid silence, he didn't say a word. "Well, I'll leave you alone then."
Walking out of the store, Hermione locked it once again and dove into the crammed street. Just as she was coming back up towards the Leaky Cauldron, explosions issued from behind, and with a force people shot forward, everyone pushing, pulling, and running in all directions. Panic arose as people in the crowd began shouting 'He's back! You-Know-Who isn't dead!' and before she knew it Hermione was falling into darkness.
Draco Malfoy was walking into Knockturn Alley as he heard explosions from behind. Turning to the source of the sound, he was greeted with large colourful explosions. Fireworks were issuing left, right, and centre. Firework Dragons were chasing people down the cobblestone street, and large rude words were going off in the sky. It was a familiar sight, much the same as he'd seen in his fifth year at Hogwarts. "Weasleys," he muttered.
Once people had gotten over the shock, they realized that the Dark Lord was in fact not back from the dead once again. Many had gathered by the shop windows to observe the displays of lights and sounds in the sky. Laughter was erupting, and children had their necks craned and arms outstretched in delight. As the commotion died down and the fireworks in the streets had floated away, one last explosion was set off. The red sparkling firework read, 'Weasley Wizard Wheezes, Now Open!'
Malfoy scoffed loudly as he read the last firework, and continued towards Borgin and Burkes. He knocked impertinently on the dusty door. The rustic closed sign was blatantly obvious; alas, Malfoy's business was urgent.
"I know you're in there, Borgin!" he yelled impatiently through the glass. The little man made his way to the door, taking a ridiculous amount of time.
"Go away!" he hissed through the crack in the open door. "I've closed down. The Ministry is raiding all of Knockturn Alley, destroying all dark artefacts – "
"I don't care," sneered Malfoy. He abruptly pushed a long list into Borgin's grubby hand. "These are all the possessions I need to be rid of before the Ministry raid our house once again. My parents are on trial in two weeks, and there's no way they're staying out of Azkaban with all this dark junk around the house. They have no chance in avoiding a sentence if they find it."
Borgin's sleep-deprived eyes bulged slightly as he scanned the list. "I can't take any of these off –"
"You will –"
"You don't scare me any longer, Draco." If it weren't for the blatant words of disrespect, Malfoy would have noticed the resentfulness in his tone alone. Although Borgin was two heads shorter than Malfoy, he spoke down to him as though age was much more of an advantage than height. "You don't have any rule over us minions any longer. The Dark Lord has fallen, as have most of the Death Eaters, and that mark on your arm certainly doesn't mean anything anymore." Malfoy clutched his forearm unconsciously.
Shoving the list back at Malfoy, Borgin slammed the door shut and dawdled into the darkness. Malfoy swore loudly and rubbed his head conspicuously. It wasn't until he'd stalked out of Knockturn Alley that the swimming thoughts of worry left his head. A limp figure on the ground had caught his attention. He bent slightly so he could catch a better glimpse of the motionless heap. He had to peer a second time just to confirm that it was none other than Hermione Granger.
Standing tall, Malfoy bared his teeth slightly, and his mouth contorted in disgust. Without thinking twice he continued on his journey out of Knockturn Alley. Barely a minute had passed when Malfoy spun on his heel and journeyed back to the unconscious body. He looked down at her, surveying head to toe apprehensively. Was this the real Hermione Granger? Her hair was clumsily arranged on her face, so he couldn't see any more than an eye, her nose and mouth. Moving on to look at her Muggle attire, Malfoy decided that he didn't need to spend his time differentiating one Muggle from the other. He turned once more, and continued in the direction he had intended.
It took him just a little longer this time to decide that it was in fact Hermione Granger. Although he didn't see why it mattered which Mudblood it was, he thought just maybe he could do something about her inept inconsideration for the walkway into Knockturn Alley. Who knew, perhaps he would benefit from 'rescuing' an unconscious friend of the famous Harry Potter.
Keeping his distance, Malfoy bent to rest on one knee. He removed a white handkerchief from his pocket that sported the lovely embroidered green letters 'DM', and dropped it carefully on Hermione's wrist. Grasping the handkerchief tightly, he stood abruptly, uncaringly pulling the arm on the unconscious body, and with a quick swivel, he was on his way to the Malfoy manor.