A/N: Thank you to everyone who reviewed, favourited, and alerted the last chapter! This chapter puts me at over 100 000 words archived here, it's all very exciting. I like giving Draco issues with his hair... Don't worry, I won't go too overboard with it.
I usually hate reading flashbacks, but I like writing them, so sorry in advance if you're someone who shares my feelings on reading flashbacks. It's not an overly large one though... Kay, it's pretty big, but I like it.
If you can find the Totoro reference, you'll have my admiration. *happy sigh* It's a great movie...
"Do you know the floor plan of this place?" Hermione whispered as they cautiously creeped down the stairs, keeping an eye out for death eaters.
Draco shook his head; they had caught him shortly after he came in the front door and then addled his brain with a sound beating – it's hard to keep track of directions when you're seeing double of said directions and fighting to stay conscious. After that, they stuck him in the tower prison and he'd been there until Granger had come for him – his hero, he thought sarcastically.
Hermione's footsteps echoed down the stairs as she spiralled down the seemingly endless stairway with Malfoy behind her. The echoes were making it sound like there was someone coming up the stairs towards them and grating on her already frayed nerves; if someone were to find them on these particular stairs, it might be hard to explain their presence. Ideally, no one would find them at all, and they'd be able to get Narcissa and slip out of this hell without anyone being the wiser. At least until they were back safely under the Order's protection, then it didn't really matter if the dark side figured out they were missing some prisoners.
Draco wasn't paying as much attention to their perilous descent as he should have been, the long hair thing was disturbing him – and it was red. He grabbed a strand and pulled it in front of his face where he could examine it. Nope, red didn't suit him, his hair was supposed to be his usual beautiful golden locks reminiscent of sun beams over water, shining and giving off a warm glow while leaving a feeling of awe in all who witnessed the visual spectacle. He shook his head sharply; now was not the time to wax poetic about his hair – though it was great - Granger would kill him if he did something to get them caught. Come to think of it, Granger would figuratively kill him for getting them both caught; Voldemort would literally kill him, and probably his mother as well. After he was finished with the remaining Malfoys, he would use Granger as bait to get Potter to reveal himself; possibly torturing her while he waited.
He was about to tell Granger that this was a horrible idea, and she should leave now before the dark lord discovered that she was in his castle and took advantage of that, when his foot slipped and he collided with the girl in front of him. They tumbled down the remaining two stairs and landed hard at the bottom.
Draco groaned and opened his eyes, wondering why he wasn't all that hurt and looking around for where Granger had fallen to – if either of them were hurt too badly, both of them were basically screwed. When the floor underneath him started to wiggle around, he realized what had happened and jumped up; horrified that he might have killed Granger when he landed on her.
"Malfoy, next time you want to look at your hair, you're walking in front of me," she groaned as she pulled herself up, stretching out all of her limbs and taking an inventory of the injuries she had just acquired. Nothing too bad, her right wrist felt like it might have been sprained a little bit, but it wasn't like she could do anything about it, so she just stood up and glared at him, grimacing as she straightened out her robes – that wrist was going to be a problem if they had to stay behind enemy lines very long.
The sound she had been worried she was hearing on the stairs when the sound of her own footsteps were bouncing off the walls echoed down the hallway they were standing in. Hermione panicked, but still had the presence of mind to think of a cover, shoving Malfoy against the wall and putting her hands in his hair to straighten out the wig that had fallen askew in their tumble down the stairs.
"Crouch down a bit, you're too tall," she hissed at him; whoever was approaching would be able to see his face over the top of her head unless he bent down.
Draco complied, frowning as the close proximity to her made him remember he had promised both her and himself that he was going to forget for the good of everyone.
He hadn't been in the best condition when he showed up on the doorstep of the Order; he had one black eye and a cut beneath the other with a smattering of bruises over the rest of his body that were partially visible through all the holes in his once expensive robes. His father had done something stupid that demanded a punishment in the eyes of the dark lord and Draco had received the punishment in place of this father. This had been the final straw, he fled from the snake faces psychopath and all of his followers and the Order headquarters was the only place he could think to go.
"Malfoy? What are you doing here? How do you even know where here is?" Granger asked him, taking in his less than pristine appearance with a small frown. Draco didn't know it firsthand, but she had always been one to side with the underdog, which was why he was a little bit relieved it was her answering the door instead of someone like Potter, who was more likely to curse him than ask him his reasons for calling.
"It's the Black family home, and my mother was born a Black," he told her, choosing to answer the question that would be in the front of the mind of anyone concerned with security, particularly when there were lives depending on that security. Granger nodded, accepting his reason and relaxing marginally once she knew that he wasn't there as some sort of scout for Voldemort's army. She waited with her wand still out and one her eyebrows raised, to hear the rest of the reasoning behind his sudden appearance. "I want to join your side," he blurted, unnerved by the look she was giving him and the tensions that was building as she waited for an answer. He was either nervous, or she was being wasted doing whatever they had her doing; she should have been interrogating people.
The eyebrow she had raised as she waited for the reason he was there moved even higher when she actually heard the reason. He wanted to change sides? It probably had something to do with his current abused condition. How could she be sure that he was telling the truth? She stared at him hard for a second before an idea occurred to her. "Give me your wand," she ordered, holding out her hand for it; if he was as desperate as he seemed, he would have to trust her.
Draco stared at the seemingly innocent hand, his mind full of turmoil. Should he hand his only defence over to this woman who had – and possibly still was – someone who meant him harm? Eventually, he concluded that death at Granger's hands would be less horrifying than anything Voldemort would deal out; even on a day he was feeling particularly nice. With a great sigh, Draco passed his wand into the waiting hand.
The second she had his wand, Hermione grabbed his arm and dragged him inside. She muttered a quick "stay here," before turning around and running deeper into the Order's headquarters, leaving Draco in the foyer to fight the impulse to nervously pace – his life was literally in her hands at the moment.
Hermione whipped through the hallways, about to do something that was most likely monumentally stupid. She needed to find Luna before someone else found Malfoy waiting for her in the foyer. It was pretty early, the sun wasn't even up yet, so almost everyone was asleep, but some of the Order were early risers and she wanted to avoid the scene that was sure to take place if someone were to find him.
She located the person she had been searching for in the attic, where the strange girl could usually be found right before the sun came up. Luna claimed that this was the best time to catch the soot sprites that lived there because they were slower after a night of floating around the house. "Luna, could you do me a huge favour?" Hermione asked the other girl once she had climbed the ladder coming down from the ceiling of one of the nearly deserted back hallways.
"Of course Hermione, I still owe you for that time you wore the aluminum foil dresses with me to scare the giant tadpoles out of the drains," Luna said dreamily, leading the way down the ladder without questioning where they were going or what they needed to do.
Hermione smiled and followed her kind friend, while at the same time blushing a little as she remembered the shiny dress she had worn. Luna had always been so much in her own world that the small details like the affiliation of the people she talked with escaped her attentions as long as they were good people underneath, so she wasn't overly worried about her reaction when she found Malfoy in the hall.
When the two girls approached, Draco looked up sharply from the floor he had been watching as he paced. Looney Lovegood? That was who Granger had gone and found? What could she possibly need the insane Ravenclaw for? Maybe Granger had snapped because of the pressure and thought he had some sort of imaginary infestation somewhere on his person that the loony blond needed to get rid of for him?
"Okay Malfoy," Hermione told him as she glanced around the room to make sure no one was going to walk in on this. "You're going to make an unbreakable vow if you want my help."
Draco glared, but nodded; she had his wand and his safety in her hands, what was he supposed to do? When Granger held out her hand for him to hold, he stared at it for a second, wondering if he had made the right choice when he came here after all. What was done was done, so he extended his own hand and took hers, noting with surprise how much smaller hers was. Granger was a girl he realized, he had never thought of her as a petite female type because her personality was so much bigger than she was.
Luna pulled out her wand and looked between the two of them, glancing at Hermione for confirmation that she was ready before she cast the spell.
"Do you swear that you will neither directly or indirectly do harm to any member of the order unless they pose a direct threat to your life?" Hermione asked.
"I swear," Draco answered, that one was reasonable; he was hoping the other two conditions of the vow would be just as reasonable.
"Do you swear that you will not you will not betray the Order under any circumstances?"
That one wasn't so bad either. "I swear."
Hermione hesitated before she voiced the last one; it would save her from having to dose him with Veritaserum, which could be poisonous in high doses. It would also save him from having to tell the truth to everyone in the Order – she knew some of the members who would abuse his inability to lie to them. "Do you swear to always tell the truth to me, Hermione Granger?"
Draco's eyes widened at that one, the unbreakable vow wouldn't be breakable until she released him from the terms of it or died. If she were to choose to, she could force him to only speak the truth to her for the rest of her life. "I swear," he said reluctantly; he really didn't have any other choice.
As he agreed to the last condition, a bright light came out of Lovegood's wand and wrapped around both their wrists, binding them both to their words and to each other until the oath was fulfilled, broken, or they were released from it. "It's done," Luna announced, sounding surprisingly focused and serious compared to her usual dreamy demeanour.
Draco dropped Granger's hand as soon as he was able, a little disturbed that he had just spent so long holding hands with a muggleborn. "What's going on here?" Harry demanded from the top of the stairs, still a little groggy from sleeping, but awake enough to know that Draco Malfoy should not be in the Order headquarters.
Hermione whipped around to face Harry, grabbing Malfoy and pulling him behind her and stepping back against him to make sure Harry couldn't cast a spell right over her and hit the blond behind her from his elevated position.
He would never later know why he did it; it was probably gratitude for her so willingly putting herself in between him and danger – something very foreign to him. He leaned down and pressed a quick kiss against her neck, the closest and pretty much only bit of exposed skin near him.
Hermione tensed up when she felt it, and moved herself away from him slightly. Malfoy was obviously mental if he thought what he had just done was okay, and she planned on having a long talk – yell – with him later about it, but right now, she had to focus on stopping the order from thinking he had imperioused her and Luna and infiltrated their headquarters.
Potter had woken up the whole house before Granger finally made him see reason, an Order meeting had been called, and then Granger had spent a rather long time yelling at him about that tiny little kiss. Not one to usually show any type of affection or gratitude, Draco had been shocked himself and just let her yell.
Despite all the trouble the one little kiss had caused in the past and the possible death eater coming towards them down the hall, Draco found himself once again drawn to the brunette; she just seemed to keep willingly putting herself into the line of fire for him, and his debt to her was starting to build up. Plus she was just so... warm and caring to everyone around her, yet she would still defend herself and her friends to her last breath.
"Kiss me," she whispered to him urgently, throwing a quick glance over her shoulder, but still unable to see whoever was approaching.
"What?" He demanded. Since when did she lose her mind under pressure?
"It's the perfect explanation as to why we're in this deserted corridor, now shut up and do it!"
Draco knew he should have been repulsed, but couldn't seem to bring himself to be; this one girl had done so much more for him than any pureblood other than his mother had ever done. He leaned in and pressed his lips to hers just as the black robed figure came into view down the hall, but he wasn't paying attention to the approaching danger anymore, he was more focused on the Gryffindor in his arms.
"What's going on here?" An angry voice growled. The two broke apart and looked at the death eater standing before them. Draco pretended to be embarrassed about the position they were caught in and looked at the ground, partly because he wanted to hide his face and partly because looking down in embarrassment seemed like a girly thing to do.
Hermione was actively trying to fight the flood of red that was trying to invade her face, focusing on the man who would kill her if he found out her true identity was proving surprisingly effective. "We were just..." She gestured to Malfoy, unable to find the words this man might be expecting, and making sure to lower her voice in an attempt to make herself sound more masculine.
The man nodded, looking between the two knowingly. "You should be careful not to pollute you bloodlines with the likes of the help," he warned Hermione, looking at the 'serving girl' she had been pressed against moments before. "You! Back to the kitchen!" He snapped when he turned to Draco.
Hermione gave him a slight nod when Malfoy glanced at her, wondering what he was supposed to do; if he left they would be separated and then would not only have to find Narcissa, but they'd have to find each other as well.
"And you boy. You're late for the meeting, you should be honoured, today's the day the new recruits get to meet the dark lord," he told Hermione as he grabbed her around her upper arm and half dragged her in the opposite direction of the one Malfoy had gone.