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Knockturn Alley

"Well, well, well, what have we here?"

The familiar drawl stopped Hermione dead in the alleyway. A shadow moved to block the small bit of lamplight from the street behind her and she only half-turned her head, not needing to see to know it was Draco Malfoy.

"Knockturn Alley isn't exactly a safe place for mudbloods," he said, casually advancing on her. He paused just behind and to her left. She could see him now, pale features a blot upon the darkness of the alley. His sharp nose was lifted so that he might look down at her, his grey eyes sparkling with malice. He'd always hated her and she him, but now, like everything else, that seemed … different.

"Lost?" he asked and leaned against the brick wall with his arms crossed. His smile could have been flirtatious were they anyone else standing there.

"No," she said simply, her voice brittle and airy from lack of use. She hadn't had much need for it the past weeks. She turned to face him, curious. Everything else had changed; her relationship with Harry, Ron, her parents, the Order - it was all different, all turned bad. Curiosity wouldn't let her leave, not until she found out just how her relationship with Malfoy had changed as well.

He chuckled. "And what would you be doing in Knockturn Alley?"

He didn't even have his wand out. Even the darkest wizards kept a firm grip on their wands in this part of wizarding London, it was just common sense. But then, Malfoy always had been a cocky bastard.

"Eating," she said honestly. "Dinner," she added.

"I imagined, given the hour," he drawled, rolling his eyes at her. He really was foolish. He didn't even seem to have noticed the distance between them steadily decreasing. "Was it a dare?" he asked idly. "One of those Gryffindor dunderheads bet that perfect little Granger would be too afraid to venture down Knockturn Alley for a bite?"

She laughed, one high, mirthful note that shocked her and drew his eyes back to her face. She hadn't been happy for so long, it felt like years since she'd so much as smiled.

"What's so funny?" he asked. There was a crease on his forehead, a sign that he was finally noticing the clanging in that small part of his brain that knew when it was time to run.

"You," she said. "You don't know why but you are."

She was close to him now, closer than comfort allowed if the way he slid back along the wall was any indication.

"So it was a bet?" he asked, frowning down his nose at her in disgust. "You should know better than to be egged on by those fools. Someone could take advantage," he added, smiling wistfully. "Never know who might hex you while you're down here." His hand began moving into his robe where his wand was no doubt hidden.

"I had a date, actually," she said brightly. Her voice was beginning to sound like hers again and she actually felt herself smiling. Who knew conversation with a Slytherin of all people would be good for her?

"Really? Blind, I imagine."

"Yes," she said, her smile becoming mischievous. "He didn't even see me coming." She threw a glance over her shoulder to where the shadows seemed to solidify, covering the whole back half of the alley in a blanket of darkness.

When she looked back at Malfoy he was frowning at her, the crease returned. He pulled his wand out and pointed it over her shoulder, so close to her face that she could feel the heat radiating off his arm.

"Lumos!" he said authoritatively.

The blanket was pulled away, revealing a middle-aged wizard laying on the cobblestones. His brown hair was matted, sticking up at odd angles and looking as though he'd just come away from a rather passionate encounter in a broom closet. His clothes were nearly soaked through from the water pooling on the alley floor. His head was bent back at an odd angle, his eyes opened in a glassy stare. There was very little blood, though the wound on his exposed neck was no less ugly for that.

"Merlin," Malfoy breathed.

Hermione had not bothered to look at the body. She knew what she'd left behind and was much more intent on seeing Malfoy's reaction. There had been one brief flash of horror and nausea before his entire countenance closed off. A mask descended as he took in the scene. He was practiced at this, that much was certain. He knew how to shut himself away from the nightmares of the world so that he knew them, faced them, but never allowed them to really touch him.

She wanted to change that.

He flinched when her cheek rested against his still-extended arm but was either too smart or too shell-shocked to pull away. She lifted her hand so that she could move his arm up to her ear. She heard his heartbeat, like a frightened bird's, pounding away through the layers of clothing he wore. Their eyes met. He was afraid, that much she knew from his heartbeat, but he wasn't letting it show. If anything he seemed just as curious as she was. No, curiosity wasn't quite the right word. She frowned, trying to pin it down. She knew she'd seen this expression before, just never on Draco Malfoy's face. But what was it?

With a sigh she gave up trying to figure it out. He may be afraid of her now, but he wasn't about to let her win by allowing it to show. That much had not changed and she wasn't sure if it was a comfort or an annoyance.

She let his arm go and stepped away, starting slightly when his fingers moved to brush her cheek before she was out of reach and he dropped his arm. She shook the contact out of her mind.

"I've eaten," she said, not caring that she sounded the tiniest bit petulant. "So you get a pass."

He actually smiled. "In second year, when the Chamber was opened, I said I wished you'd die."

She raised an eyebrow. For a man who'd just barely escaped death, he wasn't playing his cards too well.

He continued, "Now you have and I didn't even know."

"Disappointed you didn't get to watch?" she asked archly.

His smile widened. "Maybe a little."

His arm struck out, grasping the back of her neck painfully and pulling her to him. Their mouths met, their teeth clanging painfully and drawing blood. Her fangs descended on instinct and he moaned, his tongue brushing playfully over them. She wasn't sure if she was kissing him or lapping up the blood or both. He pulled away, gasping for air. There was a small trickle of blood on his chin and she darted forward, licking it up. He bit playfully at her as she backed up, settling into the circle of his arms.

"I always knew I'd like you better dead," he said before kissing her again.

Everything had changed. Maybe that wasn't so bad.