Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. They all belong to JK Rowling.
To Give the Devil His Due
"It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more." - J.K. Rowling
She hurried down the brightly lit street on her way back from The Burrow. It wasn't safe to apparate straight to her home anymore. They would be looking for her. She wanted to keep her parents out of harm's way, and if that meant adding an extra fifteen minutes to her journey home, then she would.
Feeling the sudden downpour of rain, Hermione hugged her belongings closer to her body, hoping to keep them dry. She looked behind her when she heard the rev of an engine, spotting the headlights of an oncoming car. Let's just hope Voldemort hasn't decided to start using Muggle transport. She smiled at the thought. Just imagining the Dark Lord himself driving anything other than people to their untimely death made her laugh.
Then she stopped. What was she thinking? People dying is not funny, Hermione! She cringed slightly, even at her own reprimand. This was what this sick and twisted world was doing to her. She was starting to sound just like a Death Eater. Shivering at the thought, she hurried on hoping that the weather would not worsen.
Watching the car pass, she saw its taillights slowly disappear as it turned a corner. Still looking ahead, she spotted a streetlight flickering on and off like a lighthouse, as though it was warning of an impending danger. Unexpectedly, the light surged then burnt out, causing part of the street to be flooded by darkness. Hermione halted, wand at the ready. She held it at arms length awaiting any unseen attackers.
But suddenly it was not just the one light that had been extinguished, but all the others on the row started to dimmer. It was as though someone had used Dumbledore's — or to be more precise Ron's Deluminator, which had been bequeathed to him after the Headmaster's death.
Hermione froze, glancing at her surroundings. Just for a moment she stood intensely aware of its silence. She heard a whooshing noise pass high above her, resembling that of a flock of birds. It seemed to reverberate off the stone cottages around her, echoing continuously until it died out just like the streetlights. All at once, she was overly conscious of the contiguous gloom that began to chill her to the very core. It was as though a group of Dementors were feeding off her and her happiness replacing it with a sense of dread. As it was reaching its peak, the lights were suddenly blazing brightly once more. She squinted against the glare. She felt like a blind woman that could once again see, but the security of sight did nothing to suppress her anxiety.
Looking cautiously around her, Hermione began to walk again, increasing her speed as she neared her parents' home feeling the whip of the wind as it lashed around her arms and legs.
As she reached the gate at the end of their garden, she could not help but notice how menacing the house appeared. The windows were obscured only by some curtains, but no light seemed to be springing from behind its lacy white pattern. Nothing's wrong. You're overreacting. She had seen more frightening things than a house in the past few years. Why should she be so scared of a house— her house no less? You were put in Gryffindor for a reason, Hermione. Show some courage at least!
Taking a deep breath, she began to look for her keys, having to move her books from one tired arm to another in order to search through the confines of her coat. Groping around the inside of her pocket she felt the cool touch of her DA coin— Hermione was proud of her creation. She had just altered all the DA coins to make it easier to communicate with the other members during the war, and was impatient to test it out. Then her finger caught on the sharp tip of her snitch shaped key ring. Found them.
After a few minutes of fumbling with the keys in the lock, Hermione finally entered her parents' home. Tossing her hat on the hall table, she began to unload the colossal amount of books from her exhausted arms, trying not to drop her letter as she did so.
Hermione looked up the staircase and down the hall eagerly wondering where her parents might be. Calling for them, she announced her arrival, "Mum? Dad? I'm home," She couldn't wait to tell them that the Order had at last seen it fit that she, Harry and Ron were now of age to join, having only just received her letter personally from Professor McGonagall. Yet even though she was euphoric with their decisions, she still could not shrug the feeling that something was amiss.
Confused, Hermione began to walk toward the kitchen hoping to find someone. Pushing the door slightly ajar, she peaked in. There, sitting at the table before the backdoor sat a solitary figure. Her brow knit in confusion. Why hadn't they answered her calls?, "Why are you sitting in the dark? It's not going to make much of a difference if you turn the light on, Dad. Mum already knows that you raid the biscuit tin every night. And you call yourself a dentist," she tutted.
She smiled fondly as she turned toward the light switch by the door, "Might want to guess again," A deep, austere voice sounded from the shadow at the table, stopping Hermione dead in her tracks as she was paralysed with fear.
She looked back at the figure as they raised a cup to their lips, taking a sip then sat it back on the counter-top. Hermione let go of her letter, whipping her wand out in a heartbeat. The intruder laughed maliciously, its sound echoing about the dark room.
"Typical Granger," it commented, "Jumping to conclusions."
"Malfoy?" Disbelief clouded her voice as she began to edge closer, still pointing her wand toward the intruder. She hadn't seen him since the battle at Hogwarts, after the so-called Golden Trio saved his and Goyle's life from the miscast Fiendfyre. No one had heard from or seen the Malfoys since they disappeared with Voldemort and his remaining Death Eaters into the Forbidden Forest after the fleeting Battle of Hogwarts.
He stood and advanced toward her inert form, whispering unintelligibly under his breath. The room burst into light. Malfoy's platinum blonde hair and proud expression twinkled mischievously in the sudden light, "Obviously, Granger. I compliment you on your observational skills."
"What are you doing here, Malfoy?" He began to leisurely saunter around the small kitchen, absentmindedly looking at things as he passed. Hermione raised her wand higher as she stomped towards him whilst he silently inspected a set of drawings she had given her parents before she left for her first year at Hogwarts.
"Answer my question!" she shrieked.
"My, Granger. Where are your manners? But it's to be expected, you are a Mudblood after all. You're too uncivilised to have any," he spat. Her mind screamed in protest, How dare he come here and insult me in my own home! But as she readied herself to stun him across the room, her heart skipped a beat when she saw his sneering expression. A devilish smirk played dangerously on his lips.
This wasn't the boy I once knew, she thought as she began to feel her confidence waver ever so slightly when she felt the full force of his glare come to rest on her. It was rumoured that Malfoy had been utterly changed by the war. It was true. He wouldn't be as tolerant as before. This is a game, and he wants to win once and for all.
To Hermione's surprise, he then resumed examining the drawings pinned to the board by the refrigerator. What was he waiting for? What am I waiting for?! Hermione was finally about to cast her spell when she heard Malfoy snigger as he inspected the picture even closer, "Didn't know you were so artistic, Granger. Only thought you were— ".
She had given him time to make his move, and he had not said word or taken arms against her. She would not wait any longer.
"Where the hell are they?!" She yelled, her shouts piercing the silence within the darkened kitchen. He turned to study her raging form. After a moment his lips pulled further apart fashioning a mischievous grin once more. He was trying to rile her, to make her slip took in a shaky breath, trying to quell her impetuous anger and regain control of the situation. Looking up, she locked eyes with Malfoy.
"Who?" An eerie innocence flooded his voice, as his face turned blank, but his eyes alluded to his lies. She felt sick as she spotted the evil gleam that reflected in them. Throwing a quick stunning spell in his direction she sprinted up the stairs hoping to find her parents and escape as fast as she could. Looking up and down the hallway, she ran to the closest door and swung it open.
As soon as her foot crossed the threshold, Hermione felt someone grab a hold of the back of her robes and slam her into the wall with such a force that she nearly collapsed to the ground. Hermione tried to fight against him, but his hands found her arms and forced them beside her thrashing body. Grey eyes bored into her amber ones.
"Haven't you ever heard of apparation, Granger? You are a witch after all," His eyes slowly raked over her tensed body, "And a filthy one at that."
Managing to get her arm loose from his hold, she slapped him, relishing the mixture of shock and anger that painted itself across Malfoy's face. Just as his emotions consumed him, the red imprint of her hand glowed as it contrasted sickly with his pallid cheek. She knew she was staring into the face of danger, but she wouldn't let him degrade her any further.
Malfoy suddenly gripped her even tighter and again he focused his stormy eyes on her face, staring expectantly into her defiant eyes.
She immediately felt something pressing against her consciousness. He was trying to get into her thoughts. She tried to occlude her mind, but it proved fruitless. He was a competent Legilimens and ripped her barrier to shreds in a matter of seconds. She was utterly aware of him as he toured her mind, sifting through her thoughts and memories. Rapidly, he began to delve deeper, observing intimate and memorable moments in her short life: being sorted in to Gryffindor, the flood of relief overwhelming her; the troll in the girls bathroom; the minacious glare of the Basilisk; punching Malfoy square in the jaw in their third year; the pure astonishment on people's faces when they saw her enter the Great Hall with Viktor Krum at the Yule Ball.
She suddenly spotted the present Malfoy standing beside her fifteen year old self as she chided Ron and Harry at the ball. What? How can this be?
"How sweet," She heard the voice echo within her mind, as the young pureblood ran a finger delicately across the face of the memory's Hermione, "You should dress up a bit more often, Mudblood. Maybe then you might get little Won-Won's attention!" She could see an evil smirk playing temptingly on his lips.
Hermione tried to occlude her mind again, attempting to empty herself of all emotion, as Harry had once remarked after one of his lessons with Snape. It was all too much to bear that she could hardly make a stance against his attack. She felt that Malfoy knew what she was trying to do. Swiftly, he halted, coming to look her straight in the eye.
"Tell me where the Order is?" He shook her body, threatening to read her mind once more, "No? Well, I'll just continue then, shall I?"
"Please stop," She cried. It was as though he was raping her mind, nothing was a secret. She couldn't bear it, some things she could barely do once; she didn't want to have to relive them again, especially alongside Malfoy. There were moments she wanted to hide away from and forget, but that didn't matter to him, he just carried on nonetheless.
In spite, he pushed harder against her mind, impervious to her protests, wanting to deepen his search even further to find something more delightfully personal. He caught glimpses of Sirius's death in the Department of Mysteries; her despair as she saw Lavender Brown kiss Ron; the ecstasy she felt when she witnessed her Patronus for the first time during the DA meetings. However, all of these memories paled in comparison to the last, Hermione being brutally tortured by Bellatrix at Malfoy Manor, the agony she felt surged through her brief recollection. The memory featured everyone, even the youngest Malfoy standing silently, watching on as his aunt gave her prey another helping of the Cruciatus Curse.
Suddenly, she realised he had stopped.
"Let go of me, Malfoy," She half sobbed as he squeezed her wrists even harder, forcing her to drop her wand to the floor. She saw the steady rise and fall of his chest as he breathed in and out. In situations such as these, even after what he witnessed of her perilous life, Malfoy still managed to keep frighteningly calm. The sole good thing he inherited from his arrogant father, Hermione thought snidely as he loosened his hold.
Still staring intently at Hermione, he suddenly looked away, a sombre look bleeding onto his deceivingly angelic face.
"Please just answer me. Where are my parents?" She cried silently. She stared intently at his face for a moment trying to decipher what he might do next, but nothing would prepare for what he was about to say.
"Run," He returned his gaze to Hermione. "Get away, before it's too late." He was interrupted when she heard the ominous screech of Bellatrix Lestrange's infamous cackle come from the open window. An echo of the past of when Voldemort's lethal assassin had killed Sirius, when she tortured Hermione until the witch could no longer stand. Her eyes darted back to the young wizard's face, looking frightened and expectant.
"Wha— what?" Hermione whispered as she reeled back further into the wall behind her, "Why are you doing this?"
"Where is that filthy little Mudblood?! Draco better find her quick. I look forward to finishing it off! Disgusting thing can follow her parents!" Hermione pushed against Malfoy's motionless body, who willingly released the witch. She scrambled up to the window in time to see her mother as she knelt on the floor over her dead husband. Dad! Hermione began to scratch at the handle, attempting to push the window open further.
"Ooh," Her parents' tormentor screeched, "You miss him, do you? Maybe I'll be kind and kill you as well," Hermione looked up, thinking she was addressing her, but only saw Bellatrix as she tapped her finger against her chin in contemplation, "Not before a little of fun I think!" She saw as her mother began to writhe in pain, collapsing to the floor alongside her spouse as her tormentor brandished her wand menacingly.
"NO!" Hermione started banging against the glass hoping to catch the Death Eater's attention. But her screams were muffled as a hand clamped over her mouth from behind. Hot tears began to gush down her flushed cheeks, as though a dam had broken and nothing could hold back the sob that burst from her mouth, even the hand that still held firm against her trembling lips.
"Shut up, Granger, and just trust me for once. I'm indebted to you, so let me help you," He growled, infuriated by her stubbornness and foolishness. Now it was his turn to threaten her, "Now do as I say or so help me Merlin, I'll kill you myself before my aunt can!"
She felt his wand dig ruthlessly into her flesh. She lashed out against him as she felt the dread and agony ripping her apart. She wanted nothing more than to be somewhere else, somewhere safe with her parents. Even if it means being stuck in a bloody closet with Cormac Mclaggen! She would do anything.
He held her tight, hoping to stop her, "Granger, I'm not what you think I am."
She suddenly went silent. No tears. No threats. Nothing. Not a word passed her lips for what seemed hours, yet had only been a few moments. It was as though she had passed into a state of shock. Her body began to convulse and shiver, as she clung even tighter to her assailant's robes. The dizziness began to claim her hazy mind; a sudden emptiness hollowed her out entirely. She couldn't do anything but replay her parents' deaths over in her mind again and again, her grief and distress was too overwhelming, clouding her normally proficient logic.
"He's coming," the words rolled off his tongue as though the world had been set in motion again. Hermione shivered. Yet he just stood there confusing her with his words. It was saying one thing and doing another. He was almost insane as his aunt! Sadistic bastard! Her mind screamed. Though immobile with her unexpected anguish, she told herself, Do this for Mum and Dad, Hermione! Fight for them!
"I'm warning you, Granger. I'm trying to help you. Don't make this anymore difficult!" He spun her around and glared at her as she thrashed against him. She felt him jerk her forward keeping a firm hold of her wrist. However, pausing briefly as he noticed her anguish ridden face. The Pureblood was somewhat taken aback at the brokenness in her normally glinting eyes.
Spotting her only chance of escape, Hermione ruthlessly shoved Malfoy away from her with all she could muster, making a mad dash over to where she'd dropped her wand. Hurriedly, spinning around to scream Incarcerous, she was met by a beam of red light as Malfoy directed a Stunning Spell at the breathless witch.
He had finally given up on trying to physically restrain the mutinous and wild Hermione having decided to turn to magic instead. Quickly, he began to manoeuvre her down the stairs as fast as he could without the others hearing. Malfoy incensed by her untimely show of aggression and stupidity for one so smart and relatively docile, he carried her down the garden path toward the front gate, literally dropping her to the ground as they reached the only safeguard he could find: the woods.
Speedily, citing the counter spell, he waited for her to run to safety like a bat out of hell, but she just stood there, still hesitantly leaning on Malfoy for support.
"Granger, would you just apparate already! You're going to get yourself killed if you don't bloody well hurry up!" He looked down at her tense body, as she quickly snatched her wand from his outstretched hand. Malfoy kept his eye on her for a moment as she receded into the shelter of the trees.
Only when he thought she was a good distance away did he turn back to the house. Yet just as he was nearing the front door once more, he felt something chillingly soft take hold of his wrist.
"Malfoy, here," he felt her shove something cold into his rigid hand, "If ever you change your mind…as to where your loyalties lie. I — we will always try to help anyone, no matter who or what they are."
Hermione gazed at him for a split second as he processed what she had told him. Taking his nod as confirmation, she turned to sprint back into the little wood. But before she eventually apparated away to 12 Grimmauld Place, she saw Malfoy point his wand high above his head. An eerie green glow flew out forming the shape of a snake and skull that etched itself into the inky night sky. Hermione instantly recognised it as the Dark Mark, dirtying the sky above where the lives had been taken of those intended, for the exception of herself.
She just hoped she had done the right thing, giving Malfoy her Protean-charmed Galleon. As soon as she thought it safe she would inform him where he could go if, as she said, he ever changed his mind. But uncertainty still hung around like a spectre in her mind.
As the grim, black door of the Order's headquarters appeared in front of Hermione, she thought back to what had happened. The realisation that Malfoy might have actually done something kind let alone altruistically made Hermione feel like she had entered a parallel universe. Never in a million years had she thought she'd see the day that Malfoy ever did anything that wasn't in his favour. By allowing her to escape from a fate such as her parents', he had ultimately put himself in her stead. He would be tortured possibly even killed for allowing his victim to get away freely and unscathed.
As she took the final steps toward safety, her sobs broke through, as she felt her heart being shred to pieces by the death of most beloved parents. As soon as she opened the door she collapsed in a heap by the troll's leg umbrella stand. Blankly, she watched as a blur of faces and bodies suddenly swarmed around her trembling body, their worried calls deafened by the screams of the late Walburga Black.
Author's Note: Reviews are lovely! I do love to hear what my readers have to say. Thank you!