A/N: Greetings, all! I originally started this story in 2008 in one feverishly inspired weekend, then I ran out of steam. Then my laptop died. Then I had a little girl in September 2009, and had no time to write, even though I had lots of ideas. It makes me happy that over two years after I started, people are still adding my little dead end to their favourite story lists and I still get the odd review. I've been having the itch again, so I decided to revive this story as a way of thanking everybody who read, reviewed, favourited, and enjoyed. I'm starting by cleaning up the old chapters, changing minor details here and there. New chapters coming soon! I can't promise how fast or how often, since life with a toddler is hectic and I also work full-time, but I will update as often as I can.
"YOU ARE ALL...MY CHILDREN." - William Murderface
Disclaimer: This fiction is intended for mature audiences only. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
"Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." - Abraham Lincoln
Chapter 1 - The Market
Draco Malfoy wandered among the cages in the Muggle Market, his heels squelching in the fetid muck that caked the aisles. The reek of death was everywhere - it was all he could do not to retch. Masquerading as a supporter of Lord Voldemort sometimes had its perks, especially now that the war was over and Potter was dead, but the Market was nearly too disgusting for Draco to stand. After Professor Snape rescued him from his unbreakable stalemate with Dumbledore atop the Astronomy tower, they had gone to Voldemort's side to tell of Dumbledore's death. The Dark Lord was seriously annoyed by Draco's failure, but the demise of his great enemy at the hands of Severus Snape was an acceptable alternative, and so he had let Draco live - but not without employing the Cruciatus at length to show his displeasure in his faithless servant. Even now, Draco limped slightly as he moved about the Market, eager to be gone. On his seventeenth birthday, Lucius had given Draco a gift of thirty thousand Galleons, to be used to purchase a mudblood of his very own. He had held onto the money for a year and three months now, revolted by the idea, but the Dark Lord grew impatient and suspicious. Draco lied often, saying he was just waiting for the right one, but to this point he simply hadn't been able to purchase his own...slave. House elves were one thing, they were happy to serve, but another human being?
Draco had had his own experiences with doing unspeakable acts against one's will, and he did not relish the idea of dragging some poor Muggle-born witch home to rape her. He had eschewed all company and friendly advice from his father and others, listening only to Snape, whose advice had been limited to two unhelpful words: choose wisely. Choose wisely? Draco thought despairingly. How can I choose a wife who doesn't love me in a single afternoon?
Think of it as an arranged marriage. Snape's voice echoed in his head. The thought actually cheered Draco slightly - had the war not ended the way it did, he likely would have wound up married to Pansy Parkinson. A shudder ran up his spine at the thought.
Constructed in the aftermath of the successful ambush and murder of Harry Potter a year ago last July, the Muggle Market was the end result of the Dark Lord's relentless attempts to eradicate Muggle-borns once and for all. The Dark Lord, along with Lucius Malfoy, had come up with a sinister plan after hearing of a story in the Daily Prophet some months ago, about the rising number of Squib births attributed to pureblood inbreeding. The new genes that Muggle-borns brought to the pool could not be ignored in light of the latest reports in the Prophet, as even half-bloods did not have enough new genetic material to keep inbreeding at bay for long. Surely selling off the young, fertile Muggle-borns to rich, pureblooded families as spouses for their eligible children (or as consorts to the lord or lady of the manor) would be a profitable venture, and ensure that the mudbloods were kept under a watchful eye. Unfortunately, taking care of the Muggle-borns in question wasn't the Dark Lord's top priority. He fed them barely enough to keep them alive, packed together in filthy cages. The magic in their blood, along with Muggle vaccines, was enough to keep serious illness among them to a minimum, but gastrointestinal viruses and influenza ran rampant on a regular basis. From what Draco had seen, conditions at some manors weren't any better for the ones who were "lucky" enough to be purchased.
"Malfoy!" A hoarse cry snatched Draco's attention from his morose thoughts. There, just ahead of him and to the left, a long brown arm was waving frantically from between the bars of a cage. Dean Thomas stood there in ragged, filthy Muggle clothes, looking as though he'd lost about twenty pounds in a very short span of time. His eyes had sunken slightly into his head, and a croupy cough rattled harshly in his chest. Draco could clearly see Dean's collarbone jutting from the bedraggled collar of his shirt.
"Thomas!" Draco sidestepped a suspicious-looking puddle and approached his former enemy.
"It's good to see a familiar face, in a horrible kind of way," Dean laughed. Evidently imprisonment hadn't diminished the Muggle-born man's spirit. "I've been purchased, you know. Parkinson came round with her parents about an hour ago. I'm just waiting for the paperwork to go through."
"My sincere condolences," Draco said genuinely. Dean laughed again.
"I have to tell you, mate, even Parkinson looks better than this place right now, especially if I get to have a hot shower and a meal first."
"You're remarkably resigned to your fate," a familiar voice piped up from the corner. Draco shifted his gaze to a mass of rags and tangled curls that lay huddled in the corner nearest Dean's feet. A sick sense of shock flooded Draco's stomach. No. No, it can't be...they couldn't find her, after...I thought she got away...
"No sense in fighting it, Hermione," Dean said in an undertone. "Getting out of here is the next best thing to getting free."
"Pansy won't be cruel to him, Granger. Trust me, I have some idea of what she has in store for him," Draco sniggered. The pretty Muggle-born witch scoffed viciously at this. "You're in for a treat, Thomas, though I'll warn you now: she's kinky."
"Pig," Hermione muttered under her breath. Draco could see that she was desperately thin, and her alabaster skin was liberally daubed with filth, but her brown eyes still glittered dangerously over sunken cheeks. Suddenly, an idea occurred to him.
"Flint!" Draco bellowed to his former classmate and Quidditch captain, a newly-minted Market guard. "I'll take Granger!" Marcus lumbered over, his stupid, snaggletoothed monkey face creased into a lecherous smile. Draco handed him a large, heavy money bag.
"Noice choice, Malfoy," Flint leered in his thick Cockney accent. "I'll avise th' 'ead guard t'get the pay-perwerk star'ed."
"No!" Hermione shrieked, pounding her fists soundlessly against the packed dirt floor of the cage. "No! I'll never!"
Draco was hurt, but he vowed not to let it show. After all, he could hardly expect her to be overjoyed at the idea. He was certain she imagined all sorts of gruesome tortures awaited her at his hands, and he could scarcely blame her, as incorrect as her assumptions were. She didn't know him well enough to know better, to know how he'd cried in the bathroom all that last school year...and he'd always been particularly cruel to her. A familiar wave of regret washed over Draco - he'd felt it often ever since the Dark Lord had first demanded that he kill Dumbledore or die in the attempt. Believing his death to be near at hand, Draco had had plenty of time to relive his years at Hogwarts and all of the mistakes he'd made. Perhaps now, he could rescue her and right one of his wrongs, however small in the grand scheme. Granger was still squalling like a wet cat in the corner of the cage, despite Thomas' attempts to calm her.
"Listen, Granger," Draco muttered, crouching swiftly next to the corner where she was huddled. The stench was worse closer to the floor. "You're coming home with me, like it or not. I can offer you a warm bed and meals that would put the Hogwarts elves to shame, and a library full of books, if not eternal bliss and happiness. I have no intention of harming you." To his surprise, Hermione quieted at his words, but remained watchful behind the tangled, matted curls that obscured her face. Before she could respond, Flint came trundling back with a set of large iron keys on a ring. He selected one from the bunch and unlocked the cage.
"Granger, go along wi' Malfoy. Thomas, follow me." Flint turned on his heel and returned the way he had come. Dean and Hermione embraced briefly and wished each other luck - and then he was gone.
"Shall we?" Draco offered his arm to Hermione for Side-Along Apparition. She took it reluctantly, glowering all the while. They turned on the spot and disappeared into the compressing darkness.