Disclaimer: Not mine now, will continue to not be mine long after I finish this story.
A/N: To readers of my previous story, I am sorry to discontinue, but I reread an old favorite fic, and realized I had unknowingly pilfered much of the plot. Too much. So here is a story which is totally my own...enjoy!
The scream came from behind the Leaky Cauldron. Diagon Alley was full of loud noises and gabbling children, but there was a kind of panic in this sound that made Lucius Malfoy draw his wand and usher his son and wife on home. Once he heard the crack of their Disapparation, he rounded the corner silently, a shadow in the twilight.
He had to blink a few times before he could register the scene before him.
A grown man lay on the cobblestones, surrounded by a pool of blood, most of which seemed to be coming from the wreck of his face. Lucius Malfoy was no stranger to gore and blood...but there was something horribly wrong in the shape of his body, as though his bones had been turned magically to paste and his skin sliced carefully into strips.
It was the figure crouching over his mangled corpse, however, that caused the heart of Lucius Malfoy to freeze.
She-it was, without doubt, female-was slight and narrow, no more than a child of six or seven years, face obscured by a tangle of dark curls. The air around her fizzled with Dark Magic, so much that Lucius' hair crackled with electricity.
He made no sound, and was fairly certain even his heart had ceased to beat...yet all the same, he knew suddenly, fearfully, that the girl was aware of his presence. He stood, rooted to the spot, as she slowly raised her eyes to meet his.
If possible, Lucius was even more shocked.
Despite the predatory stance as she straddled her victim, despite the intense aura of Magic and heat rolling off her in waves, despite the bloody cobblestones beneath her...
She looked terrified. Repentant, even. He saw the soft curved cheeks of a little girl, the guilty worrying of her lower lip with sharp white teeth. Only those eyes told the tale: ancient amber eyes with a depth that would have looked bizarre on a child so young, but for the absolutely overwhelming strangeness of the entire scene.
He still didn't move.
The girl broke the silence, sounding timid, like a child explaining why she had been caught astride her father's broom.
"He...he frightened me. Please don't tell anyone, I didn't mean to! I..."
Lucius kept his voice calm and quiet. "What did he do?"
"I...well, I don't know. He grabbed me like he was going to kidnap me...that's what I thought at first. But then he dragged me back here and squeezed himself against me. I think he was trying to reach under his robes for something in his pocket, but he seemed...not angry or sad...I don't know. Worked up." She peered at him quizzically. "I'm sorry I can't explain more."
"I see," he said, gritting his teeth. He took a moment to still his features into a neutral expression. Lucius knew perfectly well what the man had been up to-dirty pedophile-he hated the lot of them. "Did he hurt you?"
The girl stood carefully and wrapped her thin arms around herself protectively. "No."
Lucius removed his cloak slowly, not wanting to frighten her even more, and held it out to her. She made no move to take it.
"I'm sorry he frightened you. That was a bad thing to do, wasn't it?"
She shrugged and trained those strange eyes on him, fear and trust existing side by side.
He tried a soft smile. "I won't hurt hurt you, child. What's your name?"
The girl watched him warily. "Hermione."
"A beautiful name," he said, smiling again. "Shakespeare, isn't it?"
She nodded, shivering in the evening chill.
"Go on, Hermione. You look cold-won't you put this on?"
Finally she approached him, hesitantly reaching a tiny hand to grasp the proffered cloak shyly. "Thanks." She swung the heavy material about her skinny shoulders. "You dress funny. Everyone in this world does."
Again, he was taken aback. This world? Dressed funny? She couldn't be a filthy Muggle...no matter. She needed help. "Where are your parents?"
"In one of the jewelery shops, I think." She eyed her surroundings uncertainly. "What is this place? I don't remember these buildings...How did I come here?"
A Muggle born, then. But obviously a Magic child, one with a great Dark power inside her. He waved his wand, clearing the bloodied street and Vanishing the corpse. She cast him a curious glance, but was still too young to marvel at the sight of magic performed so casually.
He held out a hand. "Come. I'll help you find them."
When her cold fingers touched his, Lucius felt a jolt run through him. Definitely a Magic child.
He guided her into the Muggle world with an odd light-headedness. He was brimming with questions. Who in the world was she? Even if the people who raised her were Muggles, her true lineage had to be from a Magical bloodline. One didn't possess Dark Magic without purity and wizarding ancestors.
But she was a child still, and he needed to be sure of her. He would have to keep an eye on the girl, yet take care not to frighten her off.
Warming her small fingers in his hand, he glanced sideways at her.
"What happened to the bad man? Before I found you."
She stiffened, though he was relieved to note she did not pull her hand away. "I told you. I don't know."
"Ah," Lucius nodded companionably. "Sometimes when I'm afraid, it's hard to remember things. But he's gone now, and as I told you, I shall not harm you. You have nothing to fear from me, Hermione."
"He...whatever he was doing, I didn't like." She cast uncertain eyes at him. "And I wanted him to stop, I begged him...but he didn't. I felt so angry."
"I would be, too."
She balled up her free hand. "I couldn't help it. A red fog sort of came over me. I just wanted him to leave me alone. That's all I remember, and then you found me."
Now the girl's amber eyes were full on him, challenging, afraid. Lucius stopped and knelt to her level.
"You did what you had to, Hermione. I think you were very brave. Listen to me, now."
He took her chin in his hand and searched her eyes. "You have a very special power. I don't mind it, but the others in this world, and even some in mine, will fear it. Do you understand?"
"I think so. Even Mom and Daddy?"
He took a breath. "Even them."
She processed the information, brow slightly furrowed. "What should I do, then?"
"I can help you, if you like. Until you're older, then you can be trained properly with your gift."
"Will you train me then?"
"I might. And others as well. For now, Hermione, I want you to keep silent about this. Just between us, alright?"
He was surprised by her sudden grin. "Like a secret?"
Lucius smiled back. "Our own secret, little one. Now, aren't those people your parents?" He gestured at the harried couple who were speaking frantically with a store owner a short distance off.
"Daddy!" The girl turned to him quickly. "I don't know your name."
"I'll find you. Stay safe."
She half-turned, already running to her parents. "Thank you! Good bye!"
Lucius waved and watched her safely off.
Night was deep by the time he returned home. He went immediately to his chambers and found his wife half asleep. "Lucius! you're alright..." she murmured.
"I'll tell you tomorrow," Lucius replied, kissing her cheek. "Sleep now."
She rolled over and sighed. "Night, Lu."
He made his way to his study, and sat there in thought for long hours. Who was this girl? Why did she affect him so? Could she be a Dark Witch rising? Lucius paced agitatedly. He only knew his own magic had cried out to join with hers like a caged bird to feel the wind.
Then, when the first fingers of dawn began to steal into the windows, Lucius went to his Pensieve and filled it.
He had to protect her, teach her, guide her.
She had to be his.