~ PART ONE ~
~ Draco and Hermione ~
"The world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters.
We've all got both light and dark inside us.
What matters is the part we choose to act on.
That's who we really are."
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters and settings belong to J.K Rowling.
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Narcissa looked up at him, her face eloquent with despair.
"Yes, Severus. I — I think you are the only one who can help me, I have nowhere else to turn. Lucius is in jail and…"
She closed her eyes and two large tears seeped from beneath her eyelids.
"The Dark Lord has forbidden me to speak of it," Narcissa continued, her eyes still closed.
"He wishes none to know of the plan. It is… very secret. But —"
"If he has forbidden it, you ought not to speak," said Snape at once. "The Dark Lord's word is law."
"Severus," she whispered, tears sliding down her pale cheeks. "My son… my only son…"
"But what help do you require, Narcissa? If you are imagining I can persuade the Dark Lord to change his mind, I am afraid there is no hope, none at all."
Narcissa began to cry in earnest, gazing beseechingly all the while at Snape.
"The Dark Lord will not be persuaded, and I am not stupid enough to attempt it," said Snape flatly. "I cannot pretend that the Dark Lord is not angry with Lucius. Lucius was supposed to be in charge. He got himself captured, along with how many others, and failed to retrieve the prophecy into the bargain. Yes, the Dark Lord is angry, Narcissa, very angry indeed."
"Then I am right, he has chosen Draco in revenge!" choked Narcissa. "He does not mean him to succeed, he wants him to be killed trying!"
"I haven't got any options!" said Malfoy, and he was suddenly as white as Dumbledore. "I've got to do it! He'll kill me! He'll kill my whole family!"
"I can help you, Draco."
"No, you can't," said Malfoy, his wand hand shaking very badly indeed. "Nobody can. He told me to do it or he'll kill me. I've got no choice."
"Come over to the right side, Draco... you are not a killer..."
"Well, Draco?" said Lucius Malfoy. He sounded avid. "Is it? Is it Harry Potter?"
"I can't – I can't be sure," said Draco.
"But look at him carefully, look! Come closer!"
"There's something there," Lucius whispered, "it could be the scar, stretched tight... Draco, come here, look properly! What do you think?"
Harry saw Draco's face up close now, right beside his father's. They were extraordinarily alike, except while his father looked beside himself with excitement, Draco's expression was full of reluctance, even fear.
"I don't know," he said, and he walked away towards the fireplace where his mother stood watching.
"No," agreed Dumbledore. "You are a braver man by far than Igor Karkaroff. You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon…"
He walked away, leaving Snape looking stricken…
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. Draco was ordered to kill Dumbledore, but he chose not to do it at the last moment. Draco was ordered to identify Harry when he was captured, but he chose not to do it. Not all Slytherin's are evil and dark wizards - Regulus Black is proof of this, Severus Snape is proof of this, and Draco Malfoy is also proof of this. In the last two books, Draco's choices define him as someone forced to do things against his will. Despite being a bully in the early books, his choices in the later books define him as a misunderstood and rather unfortunate person. If the storyline changed just a tiny bit, would it be possible to create something very different?
Read on and find out, I hope you enjoy my story. :)
"Come on Hermione, why are you so determined not to admit it? Vol-"
"-demort's after the Elder Wand!"
"The name's Tabooed!" Ron bellowed, leaping to his feet as a loud crack sounded outside the tent. "I told you, Harry, I told you, we can't say it anymore - we've got to put the protection back around us - quickly - it's how they find-"
But Ron stopped talking, and Harry knew why. The Sneakoscope on the table had lit up and begun to spin; they could hear voices coming nearer and nearer: rough, excited voices. Ron pulled the Deluminator out of his pocket and clicked it: their lamps went out.
"Come out of there with your hands up!" came a rasping voice through the darkness. "We know you're in there! You've got half a dozen wands pointing at you and we don't care who we curse!"
Harry looked round at the other two, now mere outlines in the darkness. He saw Hermione point her wand, not towards outside, but towards him and Ron; she murmured a very quiet 'Petrificus Totalus'. Suddenly his body went rigid and he fell backwards, hitting the ground silently. He felt Ron land right beside him, just as silently as he did. He attempted to move, to scream, to call out to Hermione, but he couldn't move a muscle. A second later and a cloak was thrown over them both, and he realized that it was the Invisibility cloak.
He could tell that Ron was frantic beside him also, but they were powerless. Harry remembered the last time this had happened to him. Dumbledore had used the full body binding curse on him, with the Invisibility cloak to hide him from the Death Eaters, on the Astronomy tower before Dumbledore died. Hermione just did the same thing, she'd done it to hide her two best friends... was she going to die? Hermione cast another spell on herself, which made her hair turn blonde and her eyes a bright blue colour, obviously an attempt to disguise herself. Harry almost wanted to cry as he made eye contact with Hermione, her eyes were saying, 'Sorry, but you have to live and defeat Voldemort. This is the only way.'
Before he could even blink, her wand shot out of her hand and she was pulled out of the tent by rough hands.
"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" said the same rasping voice from outside. Harry's stomach turned over. It was Fenrir Greyback.
"Who were you talking to, girl? Are there others inside the tent?" Greyback demanded suspiciously, looking inside wearily and expecting there to be others.
"N-no, I'm travelling alone-"
"Check the tent!" Greyback growled, not trusting a word of what Hermione said. Harry squirmed as he waited to be found. A man walked into the tent, and began searching all over the place - but he didn't see Harry or Ron lying on the ground in plain sight, underneath the Invisibility cloak. In a strange way, Harry wished the man would just find them, so that they could be with Hermione. But after a few moments, the man in the tent shouted, "All clear!"
"So, travelling in the woods all alone are we girly?" Greyback rasped quietly, as if he was whispering it in her ear. Harry was sick to the stomach and desperately wanted to move.
"Careful Greyback. We should watch who we're attacking-" a man named Scabior warned.
"I won't bite just yet. Let's hear her name first," the werewolf rasped. There was a pause before Hermione replied.
"Penelope Clearwater," she said the first name that came to mind, and sounded rather terrified. Penelope Clearwater was a blonde haired Ravenclaw girl. It fitted, since Hermione had changed her hair colour to blonde. But attempting to lie her way out of trouble seemed like an impossible feat at that moment.
"Half-blood," Hermione said shakily.
"Keep checking the tent! Search everything!" Greyback roared, and the man hurried back into the tent again, searching every inch of it for something valuable. Harry heard the sounds of parchment being rolled over and realized they were searching for Hermione's stolen name.
"So, thought you'd just go camping alone, and use the Dark Lord's name just to see what would happen, eh?" Greyback mocked, getting sniggers from the snatchers.
"N-no, it was a... accident," said Hermione cautiously. She was answered with jeering laughter, which stopped as Scabior began speaking again.
"Searched for your name missy, and it seems Penelope Clearwater is in her last year of Hogwarts as we speak. So who the hell are you?" he shouted. Harry's heart thumped harder and harder, and Hermione began to panic - what on earth was she going to say? The snatchers were waiting impatiently, but she couldn't think of an answer.
"You better tell us the truth, cause if you don't... well, I won't be able to resist your delicious, soft skin much longer," said Greyback, an obvious hunger in his voice. Suddenly they heard a shout from the tent, and the man who was searching ran out carrying Gryffindor's sword, and the Daily Prophet. Hermione saw them and felt her heart drop an inch or two - she was in trouble now, massive trouble. She knew her face was on the front page of the Daily Prophet, and the Gryffindor's sword was no ordinary thing to carry around camping.
"Hey! Look what I've found!" said the man happily, showing them the sword and reading the prophet.
"Very nice indeed, that sword looks goblin made. Where did you find that, girl?" demanded Greyback, there was a pause again as Hermione tried to think of something.
"Um, just in the forest," she answered, which was actually the truth considering Harry got it from the frozen lake in the Forest of Dean.
"Just in the forest? You're a lying little brat," Greyback spat, his temper flaring slightly.
"Greyback, also look what I saw in the Prophet," said the snatcher. There was a pause as all the snatchers read the paper silently, and looked at the picture. Scabior began to read it out loud so that Hermione could hear.
"Hermione Granger," Scabior read, "the Mudblood who is known to be travelling with Harry Potter." There was a heavy, intense pause. It lasted only a moment, and then Harry heard the crunching of leaves as someone moved closer to Hermione.
"You know what girl? This picture looks a hell of a lot like you."
"It isn't! It isn't me!" Hermione squeaked, but it was useless; none of them were going to believe a word she said.
"... known to be travelling with Harry Potter," muttered Greyback quietly. There was another silent, heavy pause as everyone was deep in thought. Harry felt so sorry for Hermione, and he wished he was able to be there. She was getting into a worse and worse situation with each passing second.
"Well, this changes things, doesn't it?" whispered Greyback. "Where is Potter?"
The question hung in the air, the question the entire wizarding world had been wondering. The only question Voldemort needed answering to, and it would all be over. Hermione knew that no matter what happened, she couldn't tell them where Harry was. She had to do anything possible to make sure he escaped and survived. If she became a prisoner of the war like others such as Ollivander the Wand-maker, the only way she would be released was if Voldemort died.
"I-I don't know what you're talking about-" Hermione lied quickly, perhaps a little too quickly.
Smack! Hermione gasped in pain from the harsh slap.
"I'm warning you, if you don't answer truthfully now you'll suffer much worse where we take you," said Greyback threateningly.
"The Prophet is w-wrong! It's j-just a rumour, I don't know where he is!" said Hermione, her voice shaking in fear.
"So be it. Tie her up. We might have a well-known mudblood, best friend of Potter, and possibly information on his where-abouts, this should pay well," said Greyback greedily as Harry listened to Hermione being tied up.
"Where should we take her? To the Ministry?" asked Scabior curiously.
"To hell with the Ministry! They'll take the credit, and if she knows where Potter is we might get paid a little extra. I say we take her straight to You-Know-Who," said Greyback, an excited snarl in his voice.
"I'm in. They say he's using the Malfoys' place as a base. We can take her there," said Scabior, the other snatchers muttering their eager agreements.
"Good. Take everything of value from the tent and leave it there, it's of no use to us. Let's move, I'll take the mudblood," said Greyback hungrily. Moments later when the tent was searched a final time, Harry and Ron heard a bunch of crack's and then silence, as they were left alone. But they still couldn't move - it seemed Hermione wanted to make sure they didn't try to rescue her.
Harry was shocked. Hermione had just given up her life, literally, to save him and Ron. She was going to be tortured at Malfoy Manor, tortured and killed. He didn't want to admit it to himself, but deep down he knew it was true. And so did Hermione, when she insisted that she had no idea where he was. That was an act of pure courage, pure goodness... a Gryffindor act.
Hermione was dragged, and then finally thrown onto the floor in Malfoy Manor. The room was large and dark, and she guessed that it was the drawing room. The snatchers, Greyback, Lucius, Narcissa and Draco Malfoy were all present. Although, once Draco recognized the body on the floor, he desperately didn't want to be there at all. No matter how much you disliked someone, how could you willingly hand over an old classmate who you knew was innocent? Draco found himself staying beside his mother at the fireplace, having no desire to get involved with Hermione Granger's fate.
"We found her in a forest, camping alone," rasped Greyback to Lucius Malfoy.
"And you're sure it's the mudblood Granger? How can you be sure?" Lucius demanded. Hermione's hair was still blonde, and her eyes a bright, sparkly blue - these two changes made her look remarkably different. Although, having known her for six years, Draco easily saw through the disguise.
"Well she looks similar to the picture in the Prophet-" Greyback growled in annoyance.
"The picture in the Prophet is in black and white, you fool!" Lucius shouted, snatching the paper from Greyback's hands. He stared at the picture, then looked down at the terrified girl in front of him. Lucius' hair was untidy, he looked as though he hadn't shaved in weeks, and he also had no wand that Hermione could see. And he looked desperate - when he couldn't be sure about who she was, he shook his head in frustration.
"Draco! Come here, is this the Granger girl? Is it the mudblood?" Lucius whispered, pulling Draco closer. Hermione tried not to make eye contact, her blue eyes filling with tears as she attempted to look away. Her heart was not beating - but smashing against her chest. Draco would definitely know it was her if he got a close enough look. And she knew he would not hesitate to have her dead. Lucius grabbed her chin and pulled her face towards him and Draco. Before she could look away, her eyes connected with Draco's - sparkling blue of tears, steel grey of reluctance.
"I can't be sure. She never had blonde hair," Draco muttered, standing up and looking away.
"But that can easily be a disguise! If we are the ones to hand over one of Potter's closest friends - the Dark Lord will forgive us - all will be the way it was. We have to be certain that it's her!" Lucius hissed, stamping his foot in urgency. Draco sighed, looking down on the pathetic body in front of him again. He pretended to look closer for a few moments, but shook his head.
"I don't know. I can't be certain," was his final answer, and with that Draco walked over to where his mother stood at the fireplace. Hermione was beyond relief at that moment - had he simply not recognized her? It was unlikely - when they made eye contact, she had a feeling he knew who she was. But he seemed so reluctant, staying near the fireplace with his mother. Hermione was also puzzled by what Lucius meant about them being forgiven - was his family being punished? A moment later Bellatrix walked in, seeing the body on the ground.
"What is this?" she hissed, moving closer. Greyback repeated where he found her, and who he thought she was. Bellatrix rounded on Draco, demanding him to figure it out. Draco had a pained expression on his face - he didn't want to get on Bellatrix's bad side. But he was determined not to be involved in anything that happened - that seemed to be a common thing for him these days. Ever since being ordered to kill Dumbledore, he was reluctant to participate in Death Eater activities. He was afraid of Voldemort - desperately afraid, just like his mother and father.
"She looks different than the real Granger. I can't be certain," said Draco again, shaking his head.
"Well, we have to be certain. Who are you?" whispered Bellatrix, who was crouching next to Hermione's body. Hermione had no idea what to say - should she lie again, and hope for the best? Or tell the truth? If she told the truth, they'd just torture her into giving information on Harry. She couldn't think of an answer, and they were all waiting.
"If you don't tell me your name, I'll force it out of you..." said Bellatrix in a deadly voice.
"P-Penelope Clearwater!" Hermione lied quickly.
"You're lying, Penelope Clearwater is at Hogwarts!" the snatcher Scabior growled. Bellatrix glared at her, and slowly began to draw a silver knife out of her pocket. Its blade gleamed and Hermione had a feeling that it was cursed with some sort of evil magic. Panic began to rise in Hermione - Bellatrix looked more psychotic than ever, and everyone in the room knew that she wasn't settling for anything but the truth.
"N-no!" said Hermione desperately, staring wide-eyed at the knife.
"Tell me your name! NOW!" said Bellatrix, moving it closer to the prisoner.
"I-I left Hogwarts! My name is Penelope Clearwater-" Hermione insisted.
"You're a filthy little liar!" Bellatrix screamed, slashing the knife across Hermione's cheek and leaving a long cut. Draco looked away from them, feeling slightly sick. What he was witnessing was very disturbing, and far worse than insults and hurtful nicknames. Sure, he'd bullied her at Hogwarts, but he never actually attacked her; and seeing her - anyone, for that matter - at the mercy of Bellatrix, was sickening.
"P-please stop!" Hermione begged, holding her cheek in pain and trying to move away.
"What else did you find with her?" said Bellatrix, standing up and glaring towards the snatchers. They all looked reluctant to show what they'd found, each of them hoping to sell something and get some personal profit. But Bellatrix cared nothing for gold - only becoming closer to Voldemort, becoming the favourite Death Eater. She looked carelessly at the food and small objects like a Sneakoscope and books, but then stopped suddenly. She'd seen Gryffindor's sword, and it clearly meant something of importance to her.
"Give me that sword," she hissed, pointing to it.
"I found it miss, I reckon it's mine," the man replied reluctantly, but he barely finished the sentence before Bellatrix had drawn her wand and blown him out of the way.
"Are you mad, woman?" shouted Scabior, drawing his wand.
"Stupefy! Stupefy!" shrieked Bellatrix, stunning all of the snatchers before any of them had a chance. No one else challenged her, and it seemed that no one else wanted to either. It was clear that Voldemort had trained her in dueling, and it made Hermione even more terrified. Lucius appeared to not have a wand at all, and he wearily stood back. Draco and his mother Narcissa made no move to draw wands, and they stayed near the fireplace. Bellatrix left Greyback standing as she picked up the sword and turned to him.
"Where did you get this sword?" she whispered, her tone low and serious. Greyback glared at her in anger for a few moments, before answering.
"It was in the girl's tent. Release my men!" demanded Greyback, but Bellatrix ignored him and turned on Hermione once more, a new hatred in her eyes. Hermione began to desperately move away from Death Eater. She wished she could just vanish, or apparate away from the nightmare she was in at that moment.
"I'm going to make you scream, you little liar!" Bellatrix shrieked in fury as she walked towards Hermione, who began to sob uncontrollably.
"Where did you get the sword? What is your name? TELL ME!" screamed Bellatrix, cutting Hermione on the cheek again and bringing out another scream. Draco watched with a horrified expression, and winced at the scream. He wished she would just tell the truth.
"I f-found it! In the forest!" sobbed Hermione.
"That sword was placed in my Gringott's vault by Snape! You stole it from me!" accused Bellatrix, an inch from Hermione's terrified face.
"N-no! I swear, I j-just found it!" Hermione continued, being completely honest. Harry had found it, they didn't steal anything, and she didn't know what else to say.
"Tell the truth! CRUCIO!" hissed Bellatrix. The screams echoed and filled the entire house, causing Draco to look away and close his eyes. But Bellatrix just smiled maliciously. Draco silently urged Hermione to just tell the truth, because he knew that Bellatrix wasn't going to stop until she had what she wanted. When the spell finally stopped, Hermione was gasping and shaking in pain as they waited for an answer.
"Are you going to tell me what I want to know, or will I do that again?" asked Bellatrix in a whisper. The entire room was silent, the only sound being Hermione's sobs. Nobody dared to move or speak while Bellatrix was so furious.
"So be it. CRU-!"
"It is her! It is the Granger girl!" Draco burst out impulsively. His face was a shade paler than usual, and he looked like he was going to be sick. If he could leave the room, he would have done exactly that - but it was the duty of a Death Eater to stay. And if he had to be there, he didn't want to watch sickening torture. And if Hermione wasn't going to tell the truth, he had to do it for her.
"You're certain?" she demanded. Draco just nodded in reply, avoiding eye contact with Bellatrix.
"Good! So we have the mudblood, who was travelling with Potter," said Bellatrix, more to herself than anyone else. Hermione's eyes were filled with tears of pain as her body still ached from the Cruciatus curse. She looked up at Draco, feeling both relief that he had stopped Bellatrix, but also remorse because her identity was known. She was once again wondering about his actions - it was rather strange. She expected him to be smirking, calling her a mudblood, telling Bellatrix to torture her some more. But she suddenly realized that Draco Malfoy really wasn't as evil as they'd always thought him to be. She glanced at his mother and father, realizing that the entire Malfoy family must be suffering.
"And her tent was big, easily big enough for three people," rasped Greyback in excitement. Bellatrix nodded eagerly.
"Well, mudblood. You are going to tell us where you found this sword, and you're going to tell us where Potter and your other blood traitor friend Weasley are," said Bellatrix, her wand at the ready.
"I-I don't know where they a-are, they c-could be anywhere!" said Hermione frantically, looking back at Bellatrix in fear.
"Liar! Crucio!" hissed Bellatrix, causing screams to erupt into the room once more. The torture went on and on, a constant stop and start of the Cruciatus curse. After at least twenty minutes, Hermione could no longer take it. Draco almost felt relief when she began to talk and tell the truth - he'd almost forgotten that he was supposed to hate her. But it was impossible to hate someone so unfortunate. Tears and blood stained her face, as she sobbed and began telling the truth.
"I cast a s-spell on H-harry and Ron t-to make them i-invisible before t-they caught m-me!" said Hermione as her tears spilled onto the floor. Bellatrix seemed to be completely emotionless, and payed no attention to the crying.
"So they're still at the forest? You did that so they couldn't move?" panted Bellatrix, who appeared to be rather tired from the torturing. Hermione nodded, still sobbing and unable to talk.
"Greyback! Go to the forest, find Potter and Weasley!" Bellatrix ordered in excitement.
"You can't tell me what to do!" growled Greyback. He seemed incredibly stubborn and angry; he'd caught Hermione, and it seemed as though he wasn't going to be paid for it at all. The other snatchers were all unconscious, and Bellatrix was taking all the glory. That's all that mattered to snatchers and Death Eaters: gold and serving Voldemort. There was no such thing as friends and socializing. Life was miserable for Draco, being the youngest Death Eater. The other Slytherin's were at Hogwarts while he was at the Manor, being ordered around by Voldemort, being forced to do things he considered completely wrong.
"If you catch them you will get all the gold you can imagine, GO!" shrieked Bellatrix, and with that Greyback apparated with a greedy smile.
"And the sword? Tell me about the sword!" Bellatrix demanded, crouching down and pointing the silver knife at Hermione's throat.
"H-harry found it! H-he got it f-from a lake! W-we didn't steal it, s-someone else d-did!" Hermione sobbed, desperately telling the truth once more. But she knew Bellatrix wouldn't believe it, it seemed unbelievable even as she said it. The knife pressed against her cheek again, slicing into the skin painfully.
"You're lying!" hissed Bellatrix furiously.
"N-no! PLEASE!" Hermione screamed, struggling and trying to desperately pull herself away from Bellatrix. There was a crack as Greyback re-appeared into the room again.
"They took the tent and escaped. I was seconds late," rasped Greyback angrily.
"Y-you'll never c-catch them," Hermione sobbed from the floor. Despite what she'd been through, she still had a spark of defiance in her tone.
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